the film
Commentaries and editorials

More Divide-and-Conquer Salmon Politics

by Kevin Richert
Idaho Statesman, September 19, 2008

The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes have signed on to a federal salmon plan - effectively promising that they will not pursue breaching of the four lower Snake River dams.

Which makes the Nez Perce Tribe's steadfast pro-breaching position all the more gutsy, and all the more critical to the long-term health of Idaho's endangered salmon.

The Sho-Ban tribes' decision is a political coup for the feds. After all, the Sho-Bans first petitioned to add Snake River sockeye salmon to the federal endangered species list. The sockeye have been listed as endangered since 1991.

But at first glance at the fine print, the 10-year, $61 million agreement offers very little to reverse the fortune of the sockeye - which remain imperiled, despite one year of robust returns to the salmon's Central Idaho spawning grounds:

The Statesman has supported breaching since 1997, arguing that the move would save Idaho salmon and allow federal agencies to curtail expensive hatchery programs, supported by electric ratepayers.

There's a cynical divide-and-conquer feel to these agreements, which pour money at programs that look like salmon recovery initiatives, but actually peel off potential pro-breaching litigants. Four Northwest tribes cut a deal with the feds in April; the decidedly anti-breaching state of Idaho followed suit and accepted a separate deal two days later.

Nez Perce tribal leaders have continued to swim upstream against the political current. Good for them.

Kevin Richert
More Divide-and-Conquer Salmon Politics
Idaho Statesman, September 19, 2008

See what you can learn

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