Historically, 2.5 million salmon and steelhead returned to the Snake River Basin and its largest tributaries, the Clearwater and Salmon rivers of Idaho. With place names like Salmon, Redfish Lake and Salmon Falls Creek salmon are an indelible part of Idaho’s traditions and ecology.
But now, after decades of over-fishing, habitat destruction and, more recently, construction of dams on the lower Snake and lower Columbia rivers, Idaho’s salmon populations hover at about 2 percent of their historic vigor.
On Thursday, September 13th at 7PM at BarDeNey Restaurant in Coeur d’Alene Idaho Rivers United will be hosting a presentation by Steven Hawley, Author of “Recovering a Lost River: Removing Dams, Rewilding Salmon, Revitalizing Communities” on the importance of salmon to the region and the political pressures that are hampering their recovery.
In August 2011, federal district Judge James Redden declared the federal government’s contested recovery blueprint illegal and remanded the federal salmon recovery blueprint for failure to do enough for Idaho’s wild salmon and steelhead. It was the fourth government plan overturned in 15 years.
Hawley spoke to Kootenai Environmental Alliance members last year and he read a colorful excerpt from his book during which he hikes a Salmon River tributary in search of spawning wild salmon. He finds only one.
“As Noah knew, for the purposes of propagating a species, one is a meaningless upgrade from none,” Hawley read. “In the manifold tributaries of the big rivers that drain the (Idaho) batholith, the annual pulse of millions of salmon has become the faintest of heartbeats. Extinction is an event not on the horizon but of the season on the gin-clear water of the Idaho wilderness.”
Hawley made clear that public relations wars surrounding the politics and judicial proceedings of salmon and steelhead recovery have muddied the waters of public opinion. In the eyes of the majority of scientists, however, removal of four dams on the lower Snake River in eastern Washington state will have the greatest impact at the smallest cost and will benefit rural Idaho communities like Riggins, Salmon, Kooskia, Challis and Stanley.
“Dams are as effective at transferring wealth as any mechanism we’ve got,” Hawley said. “And usually they transfer wealth from small towns like we have here in Idaho to large urban areas.”
“Hawley has spent thousands of hours researching the politics, ecology and economics of the Pacific Northwest’s salmon, and he makes a powerful case for why the lower Snake River dam removal is integral to any long-term salmon recovery solution,” said Greg Stahl, Idaho Rivers United’s assistant policy director. “The Endangered Species Act requires our best efforts at recovering them, and it’s clear that Idaho and the Northwest would be less of a place without them.”
We hope to see you there!