Senator Craig Needs to Get
by Edward "Ted" D. Koch, where? - August 15?, 1999
Regarding Senator Craig's Version of Salmon and Dam Science: Sen. Craig and I have recently found ourselves in a debate via the Idaho newspaper editorial pages over the science of salmon and dams. Rather than continue to engage in an unbecoming public squabble, I thought I would try to resolve differences directly with the senator's office. I also went directly to the scientists the senator cites in support of his opinions to ask for their perspective.
My first conclusion is that the senator has a pretty good communicator in his key staff member on this issue, George O'Connor. However, being trained as a lawyer and not a scientist, I fear his critical thinking skills still cause him to see the world through dam-colored glasses.
Second, the senator is prone to overemphasize opinions of lone scientists outside the United States using unrelated data sets, while ignoring hundreds of scientists and their data who represent the mainstream scientific opinion in this country, in the Columbia and Snake River basins, and especially Idaho.
Third, perhaps accidentally, the senator is capable of selectively using scientific information to come to the exact opposite conclusion that the very scientists who generated the information reached.
The senator characterized the eminent fisheries scientist, Dr. Carl Walters, as being doubtful of the worthiness of the PATH scientific study results. To the contrary, Dr. Walters told me that PATH is, "far and away the most rigorous peer-reviewed scientific process on a fish management issue ever, globally."
The senator suggested Dr. Walters doubted the viability of the dam removal option to recover salmon. To this, Dr. Walters replied that this PATH alternative is, "the only one that has any hope of restoring salmon." He added that salmon are in even worse shape than the PATH process represented, and the senator used his quotes "out of context."
Dr. David Welch felt the senator correctly represented his views on ocean effects on salmon. Dr. Welch honorably pointed out to me that he is, in part, highlighting the need for more research money in his area of interest - which I agree is important - and that his ideas should not be used as a reason to avoid freshwater salmon habitat needs.
Notably, Dr. Welch's research has been on unrelated salmon species, in different rivers, in a different country and, most significantly, at least one main research idea of his regarding ocean effects on salmon has been peer-reviewed by other scientists and rejected.
I am chagrined that the senator seems to want to latch on errant claims by individual scientists, and occasionally even getting that wrong, while the evidence that dams must go seems overwhelming.
For example, there's the very rigorously scientific PATH process results, plus the fact that virtually every major fisheries management entity in the northwestern United States has, in some fashion, acknowledged the supremacy of the idea that the four lower Snake Rive dams must be removed to save salmon.
I can only surmise the senator's behavior is due to a decidedly unscientific aversion to removing the four lower Snake River dams. Having such an an aversion is fine to me as a scientist, as long as the senator is honest about his opinions and why he holds them and does not try to hide behind falsely constructed scientific uncertainty on the issue to further his political interests.
I have offered the senator my assistance on this issue, as well as the assistance of the Idaho Chapter of the American Fisheries Society - a scientific organization I represent - in the future to try to get the science right. I hope he takes it.
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