Let's stop defending failure in the Columbia Basin

Sustainable Business Oregon  By Jeff Hickman

hickman.web.700Northwest RiverPartners' members should be disappointed to read the executive director's recent guest opinion in this publication ("Federal salmon plan stands strong," by Terry Flores). Flores fails to explain exactly why her group is claiming the federal government's Columbia-Snake Basin salmon plan "stands strong" despite the fact that it was ruled illegal, again, in court this past August or why RiverPartners so strongly opposes people coming together to try to fix this long-standing debate.

Instead, Flores spends the entirety of her post discounting and miscounting the thousands of voices from across the Northwest who support a new approach to Columbia-Snake Basin salmon restoration via a broad-based, collaborative, science-driven process. Included in the list she's quick to dismiss are a bipartisan group of lawmakers in the House of Representatives, Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber, Idaho Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch, Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley, and the Nez Perce Tribe.

I am a business owner and one of the 1,140 business people who signed the letter to President Obama and Congress mentioned in Flores' opinion piece. In our letter, we urge leaders to bring opposing parties together to forge a new solution in the Columbia-Snake Basin and end years of litigation and misspent federal dollars.

In the Northwest, salmon mean business; this is more than a conservation issue. My job, like so many others in the Northwest, depends on healthy rivers and abundant salmon populations. But Flores dismisses both the vital economic benefits that salmon bring to our region and the thousands of hard-working Northwesterners who earn their living in salmon-dependent jobs. In doing so, Flores unnecessarily pits business against business, and worker against worker, when what we really need is a new way forward that restores salmon while bolstering our region's economic health across all industries and sectors.

That's why I'm a member of the Save Our Wild Salmon Coalition, a group urging this new collaborative solution that Flores attempts to push aside. Our coalition of salmon advocates and businesses represent a combined supporter base of over 6 million Americans.

The past summer's court ruling marks the fourth illegal salmon plan over a span of two decades and three different administrations -- Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama. The federal government has failed to meet its own wild salmon protection and recovery goals again and again, despite spending billions of dollars along the way. Clearly it's time for a different approach. We still have a chance to get it right, by sitting down and talking with one another about solutions that work, for salmon and for people. If Flores and the members of Northwest RiverPartners are truly serious about salmon recovery, I urge them to support this type of inclusive discussion.

Jeff Hickman is a professional fishing guide, working on rivers in Oregon, Washington, and Alaska.

Save Our wild Salmon is a diverse, nationwide coalition working together to restore wild salmon and steelhead to the rivers, streams and marine waters of the Pacific Northwest for the benefit of our region's ecology, economy and culture.

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