Monument Could Help
by Betsy Mizell
The Boulder-White Clouds are Idaho at its best: stunning beauty, high alpine ecosystems, clear water and rich wildlife habitat. Right now, we have a unique opportunity to preserve the natural and historical treasures of the Boulder-White Clouds as a national monument.
Four of Idaho's major river systems originate in the Boulder-White Clouds, delivering cool, clean water to communities that surround the towering peaks and open lands. The headwaters of the main Salmon River and the East Fork Salmon River comprise the highest-elevation salmon and steelhead habitat in the contiguous United States. These aquatic habitats are functioning at risk in localized areas due to impacts from past and present mining activities, grazing, agricultural development and recreational use.
For thousands of years, salmon and steelhead have journeyed from their natal streams in the Boulder-White Clouds to the Pacific Ocean, where they mature into adults and return to spawn. While wild stocks of salmon and steelhead habitat has severely depleted throughout the nation, the Boulder-White Clouds has been designated to aid in the recovery of sockeye salmon, chinook salmon and steelhead. Nowhere within the current management plans for the Boulder-White Clouds is this world-unique status of the salmon and steelhead resource recognized.
Today, this irreplaceable river system is being fragmented from a lack of cohesive management. A national monument is an opportunity to identify and protect the East Fork Salmon River and its numerous tributaries in perpetuity. Protecting high-quality habitats and restoring degraded habitats would help with recovery efforts for sensitive and listed fish species in the Boulder-White Clouds. National monument status is one of the best opportunities to restore this nationally unique fishery.
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