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Saving Land for Salmon

Seattle Times - November 8, 1999

IN a bold, cost-effective move, President Clinton helped protect prime eastern Washington salmon habitat with a stroke of his pen.

Undeveloped land that provided a security buffer for the Hanford Nuclear Reservation was transferred Friday from the U.S. Department of Energy to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Clinton said the transfer of 57,000 acres of the Wahluke Slope to the Saddle Mountain National Wildlife Refuge would support the Pacific Salmon Treaty with Canada. The comment was a not-so-subtle spur in the side of a mulish Congress that refused to provide the funds to cover U.S. obligations under the treaty.

The land sits above the Hanford Reach, the longest free-flowing stretch of the Columbia River above Bonneville Dam. Untouched since 1943, the Reach has been prime spawning ground for fall Chinook. Their long journey from the Pacific Ocean is rewarded with healthy habitat.

Shifting the land from one federal ledger to another, land unused for any purpose for a half century, the taxpayers get a financial break on salmon restoration. After $3 billion spent elsewhere on the Columbia River with dubious results, a stroke of the pen protects habitat that pays fantastic dividends for nothing more than environmental vigilance.

Alaska Gov. Tony Knowles recently wagged a finger at the Pacific Northwest for failing to commit itself to correcting declining salmon runs. This would surely meet with his approval.

The Hanford Reach itself has not yet won the federal protection appropriate for the environmental prize it represents. Protecting the land around it maintains the momentum toward the final goal.

With last week's action, federal land stays in federal control, taxpayers get a break and salmon have exceptional habitat to welcome them home.

Saving Land for Salmon
Seattle Times Company, November 8, 1999

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