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Commentaries and editorials

Northwest Affiliated Tribes Endorse Breaching

by Staff
Columbia Basin Bulletin - September 29, 2000

The Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians endorsed breaching the four lower Snake River Dams during the 2000 annual conference in Coeur d'Alene last week.

ATNI is a regional organization comprised of American Indians in the states of Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, northern California and Alaska.

The group also approved a resolution calling for the federal government to consider all tribal input on its draft hydrosystem biological opinion and the "Conservation of Columbia Basin Fish" document, formerly referred to as the "All-H Paper."

The resolution calls for breaching the four lower Snake River dams "to restore essential natural river features, to prevent the ultimate extinction of endangered Snake River salmon and other species of critical importance to the tribes' economy, culture, religion and way of life, to protect tribal treaty rights, and to fulfill the federal government's trust responsibility to ATNI member tribes."

Breaching the four lower Snake River dams, the ATNI resolution states, should be tied to an economic mitigation and investment plan that addresses economic and social impacts. ATNI acknowledged salmon losses have been caused by many factors, including poor tributary habitat practices, improper hatchery management, misguided harvest regulation and construction and operation of the hydrosystem.

However, the resolution states that the "major cause of the ongoing loss of salmon and their threatened extinction in the Snake River Basin is the series of four federal dams in the lower Snake River -- Ice Harbor, Lower Monumental, Little Goose and Lower Granite."

Further, "overwhelming scientific consensus indicates that, if salmon are to survive and recover, hydrosystem mortality must be reduced by restoring natural river conditions, and that breaching the four lower Snake River dams is the surest way to restore natural river conditions and sustainable, harvestable salmon populations to the Snake River Basin, benefiting both Indians and non-Indians."

The resolution says that breaching the four lower Snake River dams will restore 140 miles of river and will improve water quality. Additionally, increased salmon populations from breaching will provide more nutrients to other wildlife, plants, trees and the entire ecosystem, "creating more opportunities for tribal ceremonial, subsistence and commercial harvest, and will enhance tribal employment in a variety of sectors of the economy, including fishing, environmental restoration, construction, transportation, recreation and tourism."

The Affiliated Tribes also adopted a resolution that reminds the federal government of its obligation to consult in good faith with the tribes, as resource co-managers, pursuant to the terms of "consultation" as defined and understood by the tribes.

At the root of this reminder is the Draft Hydrosystem Biological Opinion and "Conservation of Columbia Basin Fish" documents. Preliminary analyses of the proposals, the resolutions states, "will not sufficiently conserve fish, and thus do not honor treaty rights, executive orders, the federal trust responsibility or tribal sovereignty."

by Staff
Northwest Affiliated Tribes Endorse Breaching
Columbia Basin Bulletin, September 29, 2000

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