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The Perfect Recipe for Extinction of Northwest Icon

by Becky Stanley
Letters to Editor, Seattle Times - June 24, 2003

The perfect recipe for extinction of Northwest icon

Editor, The Times:

Rob Masonis does an excellent job arguing that rather than whisking along on the path to recovery, we are clearly headed toward the cul-de-sac of extinction ("Wishful thinking won't help salmon," Times, guest commentary, June 18). Without a departure from the ongoing failure of expensive, ineffective and, frankly, deceptive "recovery" efforts, we are simply going to lose forever a valuable, once-renewable natural resource that defines our corner of the world.

And the still-growing pile of scientific studies agrees. Recovery can occur without removing the Snake River dams only under impossibly perfect assumptions. Unfortunately, we live in the real world, not the perfect world.

In the perfect world, Bush would not be exempting the Columbia and Snake rivers from clean water standards. Nor would he be strangling agency efforts to protect our nation's endangered plants and animals. Nor would BPA be slashing their salmon-recovery funding by $100 million a year.

In the perfect world, Gov. Gary Locke and the other Northwest governors would not make vapid policy proclamations saying we really need to work together on recovery. (Really. We're serious. This time.) And in the perfect world, our wild salmon wouldn't be swimming toward oblivion.

No, we live in the real world, where all these things actually occur. On our current path, we are headed toward salmon extinction. Any assertions otherwise by our regional leaders are either naive or deceitful.

In our real world, is anyone going to stand up and start working on solutions?

Becky Stanley, Seattle

The 15-year answer

Rob Masonis is right on the mark when he says that "removing the four lower Snake dams must be an option" in the effort to save Snake River salmon. The recent federal court decision, calling current efforts illegal and inadequate, only underscores his views.

Many Columbia and Snake River salmon and steelhead runs are extinct, and those hanging on are in serious decline. Fisheries scientists have found that, unless serious steps are taken, wild Snake River salmon runs could be gone in 15 years. Fortunately, the limited power produced by the four lower Snake River dams can be replaced, by tapping wind power and conservation. And barging can be replaced using existing rail corridors.

The current debate about salmon runs on the Columbia and Snake rivers begs answers to some hard questions: Are we willing to admit that we have taken too much from these rivers as we have converted them to industrial waterways? Are we willing to give something back so that our children and grandchildren can know the living miracle of an ocean fish that spawns in the Rocky Mountains?

If we are, then dam removal on the lower Snake River must remain an option.

Alex Uber, Olympia

Redirecting the flow

Thank you for running my op-ed, "Wishful thinking won't help salmon." I am writing with a correction: I mistakenly attributed information about river flow to a National Academy of Sciences panel, when in fact the information came from the Independent Scientific Advisory Board (an entity established by the Northwest Power Planning Council and the National Marine Fisheries Service).

Of course, this doesn't change the material finding salmon survival decreases substantially when flow targets are not met.

Rob Masonis, director, American Rivers Northwest Regional Office, Seattle

Pigeons carry message

I stopped salmon fishing 10 years ago, because I did not want to be the person who caught the last wild salmon. As a child I learned that shortsighted people caused the extinction of the passenger pigeon in the early 1900s, and I promised myself not to take part in such idiocy when I grew up.

Now I wonder why it is so hard to get people to open their eyes to the plain fact that we are now responsible for the species that share our world. Without our help, they (and we) will not survive.

We are obligated by good sense and morality to take the necessary measures to ensure salmon survival, measures which include removing the four lower dams on the Snake River. Doing this will drastically increase salmon survival, inject new money into the state economy, and set the proper example for our children and grandchildren. It is a great opportunity and our duty as citizens.

Perry Callas, Camas

A fish called squander

The best that can be said about our handling and management of the magnificent natural resources of our region is that it will mercifully relieve our children of having to make any agonizing decisions of their own.

Let's make sure to leave lots of coffee-table books behind, with photographs of the Northwest's blazing grandeur, along with essays earnestly explaining why we felt we had no choice but to hog, pollute, squander and destroy it.

John Wesley Rice, Seattle

Becky Stanley, Seattle
The Perfect Recipe for Extinction of Northwest Icon
Seattle Times Company, June 24, 2003

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