the film
Commentaries and editorials

One Blogger's Unsolicited
Salmon Advice for Obama

by Kevin Richert
Idaho Statesman, August 7, 2009

Dear Mr. President:

You spoke a lot last year about hope and change.

So I hope you will change the dialogue about saving the Northwest's wild salmon. And you have a perfect opportunity to do it.

Mr. President, you should listen to three former governors from the Northwest: Idaho's Cecil Andrus, John Kitzhaber of Oregon, and Mike Lowry of Washington. They know you are reviewing the salmon recovery plan you inherited from the Bush administration; your decision is expected by Aug. 14. They wrote you a letter Wednesday urging you to ditch the plan.

Good advice. And maybe the easiest decision you will make all week.

"Dialogue among key parties on the salmon, energy, water and job issues at stake here has never entirely died, but it was not a priority for the last administration. Bringing people together to find lawful, science-based solutions that help people, create jobs, and build the green economy of tomorrow is a priority for you, and it is exactly what is needed in this case."


Think about community organizing on a regional scale, and you have a sense of what the governors have in mind. And they're not alone. Three Northwest senators -- Mike Crapo and Jim Risch, both R-Idaho, and Jeff Merkley, D-Ore. -- say they are interested in getting the region together to talk about salmon. That's a gutsy move on their part. Your administration's leadership would go a long way to making something happen.

The dialogue is changing, which means it could be time for another idea working its way through Congress. The Salmon Solutions and Planning Act of 2009 has 25 House sponsors -- including Reps. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., and Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore.

The bill does not order dam breaching. That's important. Instead it directs federal agencies to study the facts about breaching. The Department of Transportation would study the rail and highway improvements needed to replace slackwater shipping through the lower Snake. The Department of Energy would study replacing power from the dams. The Army Corps of Engineers would study riverfront restoration. The Interior Department would study irrigation issues.

Basic research, and the kind of sound science you seem eager to embrace.

This idea has come up before. I would hope it gets a more receptive greeting -- if not outright support -- from your administration.

I know your energy has been consumed by health care reform. As you have said so many times these past few months, the economy will not fully recover unless we address health care.

In a sense, the salmon issue has had the same effect on the Northwest. The region's economy is tied to real, sustainable solutions which are now lacking. Water users and shippers deserve some certainty. So do the outfitters, guides, restaurateurs and hotel owners who would profit from a healthy sport fishery.

The governors are dead on: Your predecessor did nothing to resolve this issue. As the Bush administration stayed in power, our wild salmon remained in peril.

After eight years of polarizing politics and scientific skullduggery, it's time for change. A lot of people in the Northwest would hope to help.

Related Sites:
Letter from Ex-Governors
Salmon Solutions and Planning Act of 2009

Kevin Richert
One Blogger's Unsolicited Salmon Advice for Obama
Idaho Statesman, August 7, 2009

See what you can learn

learn more on topics covered in the film
see the video
read the script
learn the songs
discussion forum
salmon animation