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Save Our Wild Salmon

These groups are setting differences aside to work on salmon solutions

By Bear Prairie and Rob Masonis

March 11, 2020steelhead

In the past, we may not have seen eye-to-eye.

And in truth, there are still issues on which we do not agree. But as salmon and steelhead populations continue to struggle, we have recognized that it is time to set differences aside and focus on what unites us instead of what divides us.

As sportsmen and as Pacific Northwesterners, we share a love of this place and want to see it thrive. We both have roots and our families here. We take pride in our iconic species like salmon and steelhead, but also in our ability to provide reliable, affordable, clean electricity to the region. We know that the future of Columbia Basin salmon and steelhead and the region’s energy future are tightly intertwined and that we should seek solutions that meet both our fish and energy goals.

Last week, we and 15 other Pacific Northwest energy, port and conservation organization leaders sent a joint letter to the governors
of Idaho, Washington, Montana and Oregon. In it we outlined our shared goals and implored our elected leaders to prioritize bringing stakeholders to the table to identify a package of investments and actions that meet our shared goals:

  • Restoring abundant and harvestable populations of salmon and steelhead
  • Honoring identity and cultural values as well as federal treaties and responsibilities for Columbia Basin tribes
  • Enhancing regional economies, including farming, transportation, fishing, recreation, port and tribal enterprises in the Pacific
  • Ensuring the reliability, affordability and decarbonization of our electric system

The timing of that letter was intentional. We were anticipating release of the Draft Columbia River System Operations Environmental Impact Statement, and the potential for it to fan the flames of discord among stakeholders with opposing views of how the federal dam system should be managed.

While some have labeled this extensive document as the ultimate “decider” of the operations and future of the Lower Snake River dams, we know that it is too narrow to offer the region the comprehensive solution we seek to meet our shared goals. We see it as a springboard into a larger conversation about how to forge that comprehensive
solution, one that best meets the needs of people while also restoring
our fish.

This is the future we want to see. We cannot achieve this alone, so we urge our elected leaders — local, state and federal — to join us in supporting this shared vision and helping us realize it.

At our best, we are a nation of innovators, creative thinkers and problem solvers. We can work together to identify a package of
investments and actions that will move people and fish forward together. If we do, we can put decades of conflict behind us and enjoy a future where we all prosper.

Bear Prairie is general manager of Idaho Falls Power, and Rob Masonis is vice president of Western Conservation for Trout Unlimited.

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