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Save Our Wild Salmon

Salmon spawningSat., Feb. 18, 2023
By Gregg Servheen

If Idaho’s wild salmon and steelhead were as abundant as the words and money spent on them, its rivers would be full of these wild fish. In fact, Idaho’s high-quality climate buffering waters are all but empty. More words and funding will not restore these wild fish unless they remove the four Lower Snake River dams.

This is my opinion as well as that of more than 60 other resource scientists and managers I’ve asked to sign on to this piece. Managing these fish and their lands and waters has been our collective responsibility. We understand the predicament. Idaho Code states that wild salmon and steelhead are to be preserved, protected, perpetuated and managed. These remarkable fish are a crucial part of Idaho’s identity and heritage. The region’s tribal nations coexisted with them for centuries. The U.S. government has tribal treaty and trust obligations to preserve and protect these wild fish.

Throughout the Pacific Northwest, including Idaho, we have made tremendous investments to restore and enhance the creeks, rivers and watersheds supporting wild salmon and steelhead. Millions more dollars have been spent building and operating salmon and steelhead hatcheries to boost wild populations and provide recreational and tribal fishing opportunities. Millions more are spent counting, tracking and assessing fish response, trends and ecology. While we have learned a great deal over decades of efforts, three clear lessons stand out: Idaho’s wild salmon and steelhead will go extinct unless we remove the four Lower Snake River dams. We have taken all the halfway measures. Removal of the dams is the best all but guaranteed action that will sustain these fish.

A famous adage states that insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results. Continuing to restore Idaho’s increasingly empty salmon and steelhead creeks and rivers while the four lower Snake River dams remain in place is, quite simply, insane.

Idaho’s state motto, “Esto Perpetua,” is Latin for “It is Forever.” By place and by birth, wild salmon and steelhead have a claim to that ideal.

Removing the dams will affect some businesses and people. We are not insensitive to this fact. However, impacts will be local and temporary. Legislation such as Rep. Mike Simpson’s proposed Columbia Basin Initiative both alleviates impacts and builds new and lasting solutions. The long-term ecological, economic and societal gains to Idaho and the region from salmon recovery will vastly outweigh and outlast any temporary downsides of dam removal.

Professional nonpartisan evidence repeatedly confirms these dams need to go. In 1998, Idaho’s Fish and Game Commission voted to remove the four Lower Snake River dams. It has been 25 years since this decision, the dams still stand, and our problem has only grown more dire. Idaho’s wild fish have no more time. So, to prove we are neither fools nor insane, let’s do the best and right thing for wild fish and ourselves: Remove those dams. We can do this.

Gregg Servheen lives in Boise. He is a professional wildlife biologist with more than 40 years of experience in Idaho and the PNW. He is a fly fisherman, hunter, birder, backpacker, and lover of nature, Idaho and its people.

The following people have signed on to this column:

Don Anderson, Idaho Fish and Game/National Marine Fisheries Service

Kimberly A. Apperson, Idaho Fish and Game

Robyn Armstrong, U.S. Forest Service/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service/Nez Perce Tribe

Alison Beck Hass, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Chuck Blair, CH2M Hill

Bert Bowler, Idaho Fish and Game

Stephen Bouffard, Idaho Fish and Game/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Jody Brostrom, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service/Idaho Fish and Game

Dave Burns, Washington Department of Game/U.S. Forest Service

Dave Cadwallader, Idaho Fish and Game

David Cannamela, Idaho Fish and Game

Don Chapman, University of Idaho

Ted Chu, Idaho Fish and Game

Ann DeBolt, Bureau of Land Management/U.S. Forest Service

Steve Duke, US Fish and Wildlife Service

Steve Elle, Idaho Fish and Game

Jim Esch, U.S. Forest Service/National Marine Fisheries Service/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Fernando Espinosa, U.S. Forest Service

George Farrow, Bureau of Land Management

Mary Faurot Petterson, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service/U.S. Forest Service

Mark Gamblin, Idaho Fish and Game/Alaska Game and Fish/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Chris Gaughan, Idaho Fish and Game/Idaho Office of Species Conservation/Lemhi Soil and Water Conservation District

Nick Gerhardt, U.S. Forest Service

Bill Goodnight, Idaho Fish and Game

Dave Hayes, U.S. Forest Service/Bureau of Indian Affairs

Roy Heberger, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Tom Hemker, Idaho Fish and Game

Dan Herrig, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service/U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

Terry Holubetz, Idaho Fish and Game

Ned Horner, Idaho Fish and Game

Maurice Hornocker, U.S. Geological Service/private

Bill Horton, Idaho Fish and Game

Rich Howard, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Bill Hutchinson, Idaho Fish and Game

Steve Jakubowics, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation/ Federal Energy Regulatory Commission/CH2MHILL

Keith Kiler, Idaho Fish and Game

Steve Knick, U.S. Geological Service

Tony Latham, Idaho Fish and Game

Don Martin, Idaho Dept of Environmental Quality/Environmental Protection Agency

Sam Mattise, Bureau of Land Management

Robert Hooton, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife

Scott Marshall, Alaska Game and Fish/Idaho Fish and Game/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Bill Mullins, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service/U.S. Geological Service

Steve Nadeau, Idaho Fish and Game

Kerry Overton, U.S. Forest Service

Fred Partridge, U.S. Forest Service/ Idaho Fish and Game

Steve Pettit, Idaho Fish and Game

Charlie Petrosky, Idaho Fish and Game

Bill Platts, Idaho Fish and Game

Herb Pollard, Idaho Fish and Game

Gary Power, Idaho Fish and Game Former Commissoner

Jim Reynolds, U.S. Geological Service

Cindy Robertson, Idaho Fish and Game

Tom Rogers, Idaho Fish and Game

Roger Rosentreter, Bureau of Land Management/Boise State University

Signe Sather-Blair, Bureau of Land Management/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Alan Sands, Bureau of Land Management/Nature Conservancy

Dan Schill, Idaho Fish and Game

Richard Scully, Idaho Fish and Game

Chris Servheen, US Fish and Wildlife Service

Bob Unnasch, Nature Conservancy

Jim Unsworth, Idaho Fish and Game/Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Monte Wilson, Boise State University

Roger Yensen, College of Idaho


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