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Common Sense Stands Up to Federal Fish Nonsense

by Patrick McGann
Lewiston Tribune, October 18, 2004

For the last few months, fishery managers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have been speaking in tongues. Fortunately, there are still some people talking sense and talking back.

One of the latter is Idaho Fish and Game Director Steve Huffaker, who said recently the federal plan to count hatchery fish and even rainbow trout in with wild salmon and steelhead populations didn't pass the common-sense test.

"It just seems to me to be a grab for numbers," he said, calling the federal policy "politically expedient."

That's exactly what it is, and Huffaker should get a pat on the back for having the stainless steel ball bearing swivels to say so. It shouldn't take an act of courage to say what's obvious, but this strange new habitat is not especially friendly to scientific honesty.

And illustrating that further is NOAA Fisheries' attempt to take the dams completely off the table as a factor in the harm or health of salmon and steelhead populations.

The four dams on the lower Snake River are critically important economically to this area. The dams on the lower Columbia are extremely important to the economic health of the entire Northwest.

But pronouncing that the world is flat and that water flows uphill is no way to save them.

Last week 102 members of Congress -- of both parties -- signed a letter telling NOAA Fisheries that its harmless-dam theory is more science fiction than science, and it urged the agency to go back to the drawing board and revise its draft biological opinion.

It's hard to figure which is more preposterous: the contention that hatchery fish are the same as wild or that dams pose no harm to anadromous fish. But it's not hard to figure out who is really concerned about the fish and who is not. And it's not hard to predict what four more years of this will mean for those fish.

After saying one thing for 20 years, federal fishery managers are now saying something different. Imagine the biologists who have been braving the slings and arrows to tell the unpopular truth all those years.

They must be sputtering.

Patrick McGann
Common Sense Stands Up to Federal Fish Nonsense
Lewiston Tribune, October 18, 2004

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