the film
Commentaries and editorials

Idaho Needs Salmon Funds

Bert Bowler
Idaho Mountain Express - December 26, 2001

Idaho Senators Mike Crapo and Larry Craig deserve a pat on the back for introducing an authorization bill in the Senate last week that would include Idaho when distributions are made from the Pacific Salmon Fund.

Dollars appropriated in the Pacific Salmon Recovery Act have traditionally gone to Oregon, Washington, California and Alaska, but now Idaho would be a recipient of the needed funds.

The involvement of our senators was critical, given that the State of Idaho is often ignored when it comes to issues of seagoing salmon and steelhead in the Columbia Basin.

Obviously, Idaho shouldn't be ignored when it comes to funding salmon protection measures.

The Snake River drainage supports about 70 percent of the remaining salmon and steelhead habitat left in the entire Columbia River Basin. And, of course, a good portion of the Snake drainage lies in Idaho.

What's more, significant amounts of the salmon and steelhead habitat left in Idaho is in pretty good shape. Rivers like the Middle Fork of the Salmon and Selway flow through large tracts of wilderness and roadless areas not found in other parts of the Columbia Basin.

The Snake River historically sustained huge runs of spring and summer chinook salmon and summer steelhead that are now listed under the Endangered Species Act. Many factors have influenced their decline, including habitat degradation, hatchery fish, harvest impacts and ocean conditions. But the completion of the federal hydropower system in the Snake and Columbia rivers was the final nail in the coffin for the salmon's long-term sustainability.

The cumulative impacts of passing eight dams during the downstream migration and the same dams during the homeward trip upstream has taken its toll on Idaho's great fish. And until we fix problems caused primarily by the lower four Snake River dams, we won't fix the salmon problem.

At the same time, fixing habitat is good business. Repairing stream banks, restoring vegetation and leaving a little water in some of our salmon streams too often tapped dry for irrigation, will benefit all of Idaho's fish and wildlife. And dollars from the Pacific Salmon Recovery Act would contribute to that effort.

The political leaders in Oregon and Washington seem to have a tough enough time remembering that the Snake River runs through thei respective states, let alone Idaho. That's why it was nice to see constructive engagement from Senators Crapo and Craig on the salmon issue.

Bert Bowler is director of the Native Fish Program for Idaho Rivers United, a non-profit, statewide river conservation organization with 2,400 members around the state.
Idaho Needs Salmon Funds
Idaho Mountain Express December 26, 2001

See what you can learn

learn more on topics covered in the film
see the video
read the script
learn the songs
discussion forum