BOISE – The 11th meeting of Idaho Governor Brad Little’s workgroup on salmon and steelhead recovery wrapped up two days of virtual discussions on Thursday, Aug. 27.
Workgroup members continued detailed talks on how to move policy recommendations forward to Gov. Little before the end of December. Members drilled down on specific fish recovery topics, learned about the current status of the Idaho Fish Accords (agreements between federal agencies and the State of Idaho), and listened to public comments. Significantly, each workgroup member gave a presentation on their vision of a future for Idaho and salmon recovery.
Justin Hayes, workgroup member and executive director of the Idaho Conservation League, presented ICL’s vision of the future in Idaho; one with abundant salmon, thriving agriculture, affordable clean energy and healthy, vibrant communities. He noted that the region has winners and losers now, adding, “if we want to make all communities whole, we need to undertake major system-wide changes. Our vision for Idaho is abundant salmon and a just, sustainable and prosperous future for all of the people that depend on the Snake and Columbia River system.”
The latest federal report recognizes that breaching the four lower Snake River dams is the most significant action agencies can take to restore Idaho’s fish. ICL agrees with this finding. However, noting that the workgroup will likely not come to consensus on dam removal, Hayes proposed a path forward. He called it a “salmon surge and community investment strategy.” Over the next 10 years the region should do everything possible to help fish, short of dam removal — a “surge” in activity for salmon. This includes many of the recommendations on which the workgroup has already reached consensus. At the same time, the region would identify and pursue all the energy, transportation and community investments needed to address concerns that have been raised about the negative impacts of dam removal.
He said, “If over the next 10 years we restore salmon and steelhead to true abundance via this surge of activity, then we will not have to remove the dams. The region will have invested in communities, created untold numbers of jobs and given the region new transportation, irrigation and energy options for generations to come. If the surge doesn’t work, we will be ready to remove the dams and make all communities whole. Either way, this is a win-win for both salmon and local communities.”
Fifteen people made public comments to the workgroup virtually, including a 5-year old and a 6-year old. All were in favor of bold action to save Idaho’s salmon and steelhead.
Four more workgroup meetings are scheduled for this year (Sept. 30, Oct. 27, Nov. 12, and Dec. 2) via Zoom. The workgroup also accepts written comments via an online form and email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
ICL is working to save Idaho’s salmon and steelhead. Idaho’s iconic fish populations are spiraling toward extinction despite the hard work of many local communities. If Idaho loses salmon and steelhead, not only will these species perish, an integral part of Idaho’s history, culture, economy and outdoors life will also disappear. Bold action is needed now to develop solutions together that will keep communities whole and not leave Idahoans behind.