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White House Word on Salmon Recovery is Habitat

by Eric Barker
Lewiston Tribune, June 30(?), 2000

The White House Council on Environmental Quality gave states and Indian tribes in the Pacific Northwest a heads up this week about plans to improve habitat for Snake and Columbia river salmon and steelhead.

George T. Frampton Jr., acting chairman of the council, and other Clinton administration officials briefed Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne's salmon cabinet Tuesday and the Nez Perce Tribe Wednesday.

The federal officials announced their plans to improve conditions for fish in the Clearwater River basin as well as the Pahsimeroi, Yankee Fork and Upper Salmon rivers in central Idaho and the Grand Ronde River in Oregon.

The federal government also announced plans to address habitat conditions on the Columbia River Estuary.

According to a news release from the council, habitat improvement efforts will be coordinated with the states and tribes.

"Pacific Northwest salmon will thrive again only if we all work together -- states, tribes and the federal government," said Frampton.

A spokesman for Kempthorne described the briefing as a give-and-take between state and federal officials.

"It was a dialogue, not a monologue," said H.D. Palmer at Boise.

Specifically the federal government will look to improve salmon and steelhead habitat on U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management land by stabilizing stream banks, creating pools and eddies within stream structures and planting trees shrubs and grasses to cool the streams and filter runoff.

The push to improve in stream conditions has been labeled the Federal Habitat Restoration Initiative and will be part of the much awaited biological opinion and all Hs paper scheduled to be released by the National Marine Fisheries Service in late July.

Scott Bosse of Idaho Rivers United at Boise welcomed the news, but cautioned habitat improvements will pay off only if the hydropower system is addressed in a meaningful way. "For the first time it seems the federal government is willing to implement some concrete actions," he said.

Bosse also was encouraged the announcement came from the Council of Environmental Quality, which advises President Clinton on environmental issues. Over the past year, salmon advocates have tried to get Clinton, and more specifically Vice President Al Gore, to take a public interest in salmon recovery.

"I think there is recognition from the Clinton-Gore administration that this is now a White House issue," he said.

Idaho Rivers United supports breaching the four lower Snake River dams.

Palmer said Kempthorne's salmon recovery advisors informed Frampton about on-going discussions between the Pacific Northwest states attempting to devise a regional salmon recovery strategy.

Officials of the Nez Perce Tribe could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Eric Barker
White House Word on Salmon Recovery is Habitat
Lewiston Tribune, June 30(?), 2000

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