Salmon and Steelhead
Idaho’s salmon and steelhead are in trouble. More specifically, ICL is worried about Idaho’s Chinook salmon, sockeye salmon and steelhead trout. Since the insertion of the lower Snake River dams in the 1960s and 1970s, these anadromous fish species have seen a heavy decline. Despite conservation efforts established by both the federal government and state government these iconic Idaho fish continue to have dismal return rates. In short, the conservation efforts of the past 20 years have kept the fish from dying out entirely — but have come nowhere close to restoration goals originally established after they were placed on the endangered species list in the 1990s.
The Idaho Conservation League is proud of our continued efforts to save these keystone species. Within the last year alone, ICL has approached the issue from an energy standpoint, worked toward dam mitigation, advocated for responsible river usage to keep prime habitat intact, and advocated for the public to participate in awareness events. However, we also recognize that not enough is currently being done.
In October 2018, Gov. Otter recommitted to a recovery plan that has proven to not be effective. ICL is challenging this status quo. The Idaho Conservation League is re-evaluating our past efforts to save these important native Idaho species, and changing our tactics in order to make a difference. We are asking our elected officials, business owners and individuals to do the same. Help us commit to an Idaho that includes a healthy anadromous fish population. Call Governor-elect Little today and let him know you are concerned about our legendary fish. Ask your friends and family to do the same.
Our 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. Although regulation from federal and state government has kept Idaho’s iconic fish from going extinct, salmon and steelhead return populations are still collapsing. In order to revive and restore salmon and steelhead to a sustainable population more action is necessary.
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 continues to affect water temperatures and the timing of snowmelt, the importance of Idaho’s high-elevation habitat for salmon and steelhead is at a critical impass. Although restoring Idaho’s wild fish population has always been an important topic, local business owners, elected officials and residents are recognizing that more direct action needs to happen quickly. Help us to directly address declining salmon and steelhead populations in Idaho.