Salmon and Steelhead
Idaho’s salmon and steelhead are born in the headwaters of the Snake, Salmon and Clearwater rivers. Young smolts are flushed downstream to the ocean by spring run-off. There, they feed on nutrient-rich sources of food and grow into adults. Mature adults retrace their path back to their natal headwaters, swimming hundreds of miles against the current to where they were born. Once back in their native waters, they spawn and die—and ideally the cycle begins anew.
Like many things in today’s world, salmon and steelhead have a new normal. Dams and development have relegated salmon to the endangered species list and a changing climate results in warming rivers and ocean temperatures.
Saving Northwest salmon and steelhead from a future of extinction is a formidable task, and we are doing what we can to permanently protect places that offer the unique habitat that Idaho’s fish need. Spawning streams that flow into Idaho’s Snake, Salmon and Clearwater Rivers are recognized as some of the most important habitat for promoting the survival of Idaho’s native fish.
For many years, the removal of the lower Snake River dams has been a primary focus in the debate over how to restore endangered fish populations. Although we work with many others—organizations, tribal leaders, agencies, local recreation businesses and fisheries experts—to get closer to the reality of dam removal, we also ensure that forest and rangeland management in the headwater spawning streams protects the clean water and diverse habitat that these fish need. As climate change affects water temperatures and the timing of snowmelt, the relative importance of Idaho’s high-elevation habitat for salmon and steelhead will increase.