June 27, 2019
By Eric Tegethoff
Boise, Idaho – A diverse group of stakeholders will be in Boise on Friday to develop a plan to save Idaho's salmon and steelhead trout. The gathering was established at the behest of Gov. Brad Little. At an environmental conference at Boise State in April, Little instructed the Office of Species Conservation to establish the Salmon Workgroup. This Friday's meeting will be the group's first. State Sen. Dan Johnson of Lewiston is part of the newly established task force. "It's very important that we have these discussions with such a large, diverse group and try to find some collaboration,” Johnson states. “That word sometimes gets overplayed, but certainly I think we need to try to find some agreement on maybe what some of the reasons are for the decline in the populations." Groups involved include environmental organizations such as the Idaho Conservation League and The Nature Conservancy, tribal groups, Idaho Power, organizations representing grain producers and farmers and sporting groups. Salmon numbers have been on the decline season over season, and this year is no exception. According to the state's Department of Fish and Game, the chinook salmon count to date at the Lower Granite Dam is about a third of the five-year average at this time of year. Brian Brooks, executive director of the Idaho Wildlife Federation, is part of the work group. He says he appreciates that Little is not shying away from this complicated issue. Brooks notes it would be devastating to see these fish disappear from the Salmon River. "It's unacceptable to allow the namesake of that river to go extinct,” he states. “I mean, people and communities rely on the return of our salmon and our steelhead, and if those fish go extinct, we are killing parts of those communities." At the same conference where Little announced the work group, U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson of Idaho advocated for strong action to save salmon and steelhead, including evaluating the impact of dams on the fish species. Brooks agrees everything should be on the table, but adds that victory isn't salmon returning at any cost. "A victory is salmon returning to Idaho and everybody impacted by the changes of Columbia and Snake river management are made whole,” he stresses. “We can't leave anybody behind in this process." The meeting is scheduled for Friday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Idaho State Museum in Boise and is open to the public.