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Commentaries and editorials

Real Issues for Salmon

by Tim Weaver
The Daily Astorian, April 18, 2008

I am reading with both glee and consternation the editorial of April 10 regarding the recent Memorandum of Agreement between four Columbia River tribes and the federal action agencies ("Healthy river, ample fish," The Daily Astorian).

For nearly 40 years, I have represented the Yakama Nation as special litigation counsel, and have been there with them in the pit fighting for the fish, including all proceedings before Judge James Redden.

I was one of the tribal federal negotiating team members who developed this MOA. Ending this litigation will certainly impact my litigation fees in the coming years, and I couldn't be more proud or happy to see that happen.

Both I and my client appreciate your recognition of the deep and abiding concern that the tribes have for the fishery resources of the Columbia River. This is far nicer press than we've gotten from our former friends in the environmental groups, non-Indian fishing groups and at least one governor's office.

Apparently, continuing the talismanic, one-trick pony, dam-breaching approach to salmon recovery in the Columbia Basin appeals more to their ego gratification and fundraising efforts than does really trying to do something about salmon.

I wonder if the leadership of these organizations, prior to criticizing the tribal efforts, told their members that Snake River breaching gives absolutely no benefits to nine of the 14 listed stocks in the Columbia Basin, or that more than two-thirds of the Evolutionarily Significant Units for listed fish are either below the Snake River dams or are in the mid-Columbia and upper Columbia and get no benefit from dam breaching?

Maybe some members should ask such questions, as the MOA provides large benefits to these fish which get nada from Snake River dam breaching. Several of these stocks are in worse shape than those in the Snake.

Enough about them. The MOA does significant things for both listed and nonlisted fish basinwide. This includes stocks of huge concern to Astoria fishermen such as Hanford Reach fish, upper-Columbia summer chinook, large numbers of coho, and also includes a rehab of the Klickitat Hatchery to produce far better and bigger numbers of quality spring chinook. It also has more than 200 habitat repair actions to provide for returning naturally spawning fish. Why these fishery groups think that is a bad deal is beyond me. They should be driving to the reservations to thank the tribes, not chastising them.

Finally, as to the Bush Administration versus our other "savior administrations," we had the most "green" administration in history with Bill Clinton and Al Gore. They approved most of the plans that have been overturned as inadequate, and did nothing for fish except continue to reduce Mitchell Act hatchery funding.

If someone thinks the upcoming crop will care a whit about fish, they'd best check their drag, as it doesn't appear to be very tightly adjusted. This is a good deal for the tribes, the agencies, the region and the fish. Who cares who signs it?

Tim Weaver, Yakima, Wash.
Real Issues for Salmon
The Daily Astorian, April 18, 2008

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