Contact: Scott Ki, Communications Associate, (208) 345-6933 x 14. 

BOISE – On May 13, the Andrus Center for Public Policy at Boise State University hosted its “Energy, Salmon, Agriculture and Community: Revisited” forum, bringing together various interests to take stock of how far the issue has progressed since its last conference on this topic two years ago. 

At the last conference, Congressman Mike Simpson notably said “I’m going to stay alive long enough to get healthy salmon to Idaho.” He silenced the audience by strongly advocating for Idaho’s salmon and steelhead. Earlier this year, he announced his “Columbia Basin Initiative” proposal to invest in Northwest infrastructure.

Thursday’s conference featured keynote speakers Chairman Shannon Wheeler of the Nez Perce Tribe, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA), as well as Congressman Simpson. A panel moderated by journalist Rocky Barker discussed what has changed from two years ago and how to keep forward momentum going. The panelists included reporter Lynda Mapes from the Seattle Times and representatives of Trout Unlimited, Seattle City Light, the Tri-Cities Development Council, and the PNW Farmers Cooperative. 

Justin Hayes, the Idaho Conservation League’s executive director said, “We deeply thank the Andrus Center for bringing different interests together again to move the conversation forward on ways all of us in the Northwest can find solutions together to face the many challenges our region faces in terms of salmon, energy, agriculture, and communities.”

“Congressman Mike Simpson’s bold vision of the future as embodied in his ‘Columbia Basin Initiative’ is a framework with ambitious goals: restoring the Snake River for salmon and enhanced water quality in the Columbia Basin, investing in clean energy to combat climate change and create jobs, finding efficient ways to transport crops to market, and assuring water for irrigation.”

“We support his vision as well as those who agree with the urgent need to engage in detailed conversations to find a comprehensive solution that benefits all.” 

He added, “We must speak the truth about what salmon and people need. Many of today’s speakers did – sadly others did not. The status quo is failing the people of the Northwest and salmon. Salmon are spiraling towards extinction. Salmon need a river. To save them we need to remove the four lower Snake River dams. People need certainty and our communities need investment and resources so that we can make communities whole. Simpson’s proposal recognizes these truths and seeks to break the status quo.” 

Notable quotes from the conference:

Congressman Mike Simpson: “I refuse to believe that a society 52 years ago put a man on the Moon and returned him safely to Earth and discovered the mysteries of the atom can’t find a way to restore these salmon runs, maintain our economy, and have clean energy for the future.”

And, “I know what you’re against. Tell me what you’re for. If you have other plans, if you have other ideas, let me know what those are.”

Chairman Shannon Wheeler of the Nez Perce Tribe: “Simpson’s salmon and energy plan is a unique opportunity that should not be ignored nor postponed.”

Rep. Earl Blumenauer: “I think he (Simpson) has initiated a conversation that is long overdue and I’m proud to join him and be a part of it.”

Seattle Times reporter Lynda Mapes said it best when she noted that we have a “once in a lifetime opportunity,” given the unique nexus of the enormous political power the Northwest congressional delegation wields, an administration that’s “swinging for the fences” with trillions of dollars proposed for infrastructure investments, and the plan laid out in Congressman’s Simpson’s framework. 

“Make no mistake this is a singular moment.” Mapes said. “This moment will not come again politically or access to this amount of money to solve a big, generational problem that needs to be solved anyway.”