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Restoring the Lower Snake River

Penobscot RiverWhen demolition of the Elwha River dams in Washington State began last fall, conservationists, tribes and businesses celebrated as a river was restored. Mere weeks later, the Condit Dam on the White Salmon River was destroyed and a river reborn. We have a lot to learn from both river restorations as the fish begin to return, but in the meantime we are beginning to develop a template for how these processes can bring success.

This month, we have another region of the country helping set the bar for solutions to protect salmon, restore rivers, and create jobs: New England’s Penobscot River Watershed. Negotiations amongst stakeholders including industry, the Penobscot Tribe, local business, and federal agencies will result in nearly 1,000 miles of Penobscot River habitat being restored through the purchase and decommissioning of one dam, Howland Dam, and the purchase and removal of two others, the Veazie and Great Works.

It’s taken 13 years to come to an agreement, but now everyone involved is looking forward to restoring salmon runs and boosting recreational tourism on the river. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar called the Penobscot River Restoration Project a “milestone”, stating, “Through a historic partnership that exemplifies President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative, we are reconnecting 1,000 miles of river, restoring vital habitat for fish and wildlife, expanding opportunities for outdoor recreation, and supporting energy production, jobs and economic growth in communities throughout Maine.”

The same could be said of the Snake River Basin. This watershed remains home to the largest and wildest habitat left in the continental United States. Restoration of the Snake River provides the Pacific Northwest with its best opportunity to reach several goals at once: restore endangered salmon to abundance, create new jobs, and invest in a clean energy future.

Right now, businesses, stakeholders and communities throughout the Pacific Northwest remain without a voice in determining the fate of salmon in the Columbia-Snake Basin. These people deserve a real chance to forge mutual solutions as has been done now on the Penobscot, Elwha, White Salmon, San Joaquin, and other rivers. It’s time to take a new direction for Columbia-Snake River salmon. Send a message to the Obama administration.

Check out this awesome video from 70 Degrees West on behalf of the Penobscot River Restoration Project to learn more:

Penobscot River Restoration from 70DegreesWest on Vimeo.

Big congratulations to all of the Penobscot River Restoration Project’s partners:
American Rivers, the Penobscot Indian Nation, the Atlantic Salmon Federation, Maine Audubon, the Natural Resources Council of Maine, the Nature Conservancy, and Trout Unlimited.

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