Editor’s Note: This article is authored by Gregg Servheen and originally appeared in multiple regional outlets including the Spokesman-Review, Moscow-Pullman Daily News and Bend Bulletin. Gregg serves on ICL’s Board of Directors and is a highly active conservationist. Gregg worked for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game for 34 years before his retirement in 2019, and has a BS in Wildlife Biology from the University of Massachusetts and an MS in Fisheries and Wildlife Sciences from Texas A&M University. This article was signed onto by 65 natural resource scientists and managers with over 2,000 years of collective experience. All are advocating for breaching the lower Snake River dams to save Idaho’s wild salmon and steelhead from extinction.
We Can Do This
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.
We are 65 professional resource scientists and managers with over 2000 years of combined experience. 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 US 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 Congressman 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 non-partisan 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 twenty-five 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.
Kimberly A Apperson
Alison Beck Hass
Mary Faurot Petterson