Tribes Look to Action Through Agreements
Wheat Life, December 2008
The recently-signed Columbia Basin Fish Accords of 2008 signify a notable step away from the environmental community for three of the four member-tribes of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, according to Charles Hudson, Manager of the Public Affairs Office for the Commission. Tribes making up the commission include the Yakama, Warm Springs, Umatilla and Nez Perce Tribes.
The "accords" are 10-year agreements with federal agencies that require hard commitments from both parties toward recovering multiple species and are supported by $900 million of Bonneville ratepayer monies.
The Nez Perce Tribe is not a signatory at this time as they are currently involved with the Snake River adjudication process, and it appears they have not been able to sort out with federal agencies what is needed to meet their needs. Meanwhile, the Colville Tribe added its name to the accords.
The other Tribes, growing weary of continual litigation at every turn and recognizing growing public perception that the "salmon issue" was becoming unsolvable, decided to take a different direction. On the ground, actions through partnerships and talking with all participants are part of the solution. The Tribes are also seeing an urgent need to keep the Lamprey eel off the Endangered Species Act list. Hudson notes the tribes understand that salmon issues are not all solved by taking out Snake River dams, which seems to be the central focus for some. For example, the Yakama Nation has work to do in the Upper Columbia. The shift away from the narrow focus of dam removal could be problematic for environmental litigants who have relied heavily on tribal legal and scientific expertise. The Tribes have lately redirected their skilled staffs away from litigation and toward project implementation.
Hudson notes that dredging is not part of the accords, since the Tribes recognize that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has a congressionally-mandated responsibility to maintain a navigational channel. There are other positives to note such as the recently-signed Pacific Salmon Treaty that reduces Alaskan harvest off Columbia Basin Chinook salmon by 15 percent, and calls for a 30 percent reduction in Canadian harvest off Vancouver Island.
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