Federal Salmon Plan Stands Strongby Terry Flores
Sustainable Business Oregon, December 12, 2011
A recent Sustainable Oregon Business article ("Businesses, lawmakers press Obama for action on salmon") mischaracterizes a long-running Northwest story. I appreciate the opportunity to provide a perspective that makes it clear few lawmakers or businesses are pressing for more action.
First, businesses: Northwest businesses support the myriad ongoing actions to aid endangered Pacific salmon, many of which are called for under the federal salmon plan. The membership of Northwest RiverPartners, for example, includes the Association of Washington Businesses and Associated Oregon Industries, groups that represent over 9,000 businesses, small and large, who have supported the salmon plan.
Their support is particularly noteworthy given that Northwest families and businesses pay for the plan, costing up to nearly a $1 billion dollars a year, through their electricity bills. The plan is one of the most ambitious and expensive plans to protect endangered species anywhere. A business struggling through tough economic times takes a hit -- in many cases a big one -- from higher electricity rates, which add to operating costs and make it more difficult to stay afloat and keep employees working. Northwest businesses deserve credit for supporting the federal salmon plan despite its costs.
On closer inspection, the businesses mentioned in the article consist primarily of specialty enterprises that aren't representative of business in Oregon or elsewhere in the Northwest. The numbers are small (200 in Oregon) and are made up of chefs, commercial fishermen, guides and eco-clothiers, among others. These are folks who, quite frankly, have an interest in killing, selling and/or cooking the salmon they want to protect. While they may well-intentioned, they clearly haven't had the benefit of understanding all the facts on salmon issues in the Northwest.
Now, to lawmakers: There are only two members of the Northwest congressional delegation who are calling for more action and who signed the letter to President Obama. They are Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Portland and Rep. Jim McDermott of Seattle. Of the other 435 members of the House, only 50 others from elsewhere in the country signed the letter. These 50 have no constituent interest on either side of the issue so it's an easy signature for them.
The reality is that few Northwest businesses or lawmakers are asking for further action on salmon. On the contrary, the majority of businesses and lawmakers engaged in this issue support the federal salmon plan and its implementation. Their support may not garner headlines, but it does ensure that on-the-ground actions are being taken to help listed salmon.
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