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Commentaries and editorials

Stream Projects to Benefit Endangered Fish

by Greg Stahl
Idaho Mountain Express, October 15, 2003

"When you talk about salmon and steelhead conservation in the upper Salmon,
you have to recognize the private landowners are the key."

--DIRK KEMPTHORNE, Idaho Governor

State and federal officials last week announced an upper Salmon River agreement and list of projects they said will help endangered native fish species rebound.

In Idaho, Gov. Dirk Kempthorne formalized an agreement with federal, tribal and private partners that is designed to provide a framework for the protection of fish and their habitats.

"This agreement and its predecessor, the Lemhi River agreement, demonstrate Idahoís commitment to the conservation of fish and fish habitat," Kempthorne said. "When you talk about salmon and steelhead conservation in the upper Salmon, you have to recognize the private landowners are the key."

The agreement, signed Wednesday, Oct. 8, in Challis, provides an opportunity for participating landowners and irrigators to receive assurances of protection from federal enforcement of the Endangered Species Act, while conservation measures are pursued on private properties.

In 2001, a similar agreement was brokered for irrigators in the Lemhi River basin, resulting in more than 100 successful conservation projects in that drainage, such as irrigation ditch modifications and stream bank stabilization projects.

"Partners in this effort have agreed to continue to work together in a creative partnership to establish a process for voluntary compliance with the ESA, while encouraging the implementation of measures to ensure the conversation of listed species such as bull trout, salmon and steelhead," said Bill Shake, special assistant to the regional director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

"This agreement will provide short-term benefits for aquatic species in the area while we continue to work with our partners to develop a long-term conservation strategy," Shake continued.

Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, who chairs the Senate Environmental and Public Works Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife and Water, praised the agreement.

"I know the others in the Idaho delegation join with me in congratulating Gov. Kempthorne on the signing of this important conservation agreement," Crapo said. "The funding we have diligently labored on for salmon recovery will find a good home with these projects, and I congratulate those on the Lemhi and Salmon Rivers who are involved with the demonstration projects, benefiting both ranchers and the anadromous fish."

Separately, $7.5 million in federal funding could go to anadromous fish projects along the Salmon River near Challis, according to Carl Christianson, Army Corps of Engineers project manager.

The projects, which involve working with willing volunteers, include excluding grazing to enable riparian vegetation to grow, creating new flood plain areas, installing fish screens and fencing areas to create riparian buffers between pastures and the river.

An environmental analysis should be finished by November, Christianson said.

The projects, sponsored by the Custer Soil and Water Conservation District, are primarily targeted at restoring the river to a more natural, braided state. Agricultural use of the river has limited the riverís meandering migrations, and the channel has experienced down cutting, Christianson said.

Greg Stahl
Stream Projects to Benefit Endangered Fish
Idaho Mountain Express - October 15, 2003

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