Photo- Op Environmentalismby Editorial Board
Idaho Mountain Express, September 5, 2008
How joyous and celebratory they looked, Gov. Butch Otter and other dignitaries as they ceremoniously-for the cameras-picked up and then theatrically dumped 56 sockeye salmon smolts into Redfish Lake south of Stanley.
It was photo-op environmentalism at its worst-politicians hovering over the meager hopes of a once-flourishing species and crowing about the successful return of some 500 sockeye this year from their Pacific Ocean migration.
Mind you, tens of thousands of these picturesque fish once turned Redfish Lake into a turbulent red sea. Now Idaho politicians rejoice that 500 made it home alive.
Of course, this was made possible by hatchery breeding to begin with, since survival is no longer assured.
As one observer at the Redfish Lake photo-op ceremony observed, "How many decades are we going to be willing to throw a few fish in the lake?"
The rapid decline of sockeye runs began after the last of a series of Snake River dams was opened for hydroelectric power generation. Since then the federal government has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on makeshift dam alterations and barging to get sockeye around the killer structures. Bonneville Power Administration, which sells electricity from the eight dams, has paid for the breeding program.
Instead of Idaho's governors' making the ritualistic trip to Redfish to pose with surviving salmon, they should work to breach or remove the most damaging dams, end the prohibitively expensive sham programs that haven't restored salmon runs and return to Idaho the millions of dollars lost when the salmon runs declined.
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