by Jason Kauffman, staff writer
Boise Democrat Jim Hansen swings through valley
The person representing Idaho's 2nd Congressional District in Washington, D.C., must be a strong advocate for the state's beleaguered salmon and steelhead runs, said Jim Hansen, a Boise Democrat campaigning for the seat, during an interview Monday.
"It's wrong to just write off that asset," Hansen said.
A former member of the Idaho Legislature from 1988 to 1994, Hansen was in Ketchum Monday as part of a one-day campaign swing through the Wood River Valley. Hansen voluntarily left the Idaho Legislature in 1994 and founded United Vision for Idaho, which is a coalition of organizations working together to promote participation in democracy.
Hansen is challenging Republican incumbent Mike Simpson in Idaho's 2006 election to represent the 2nd Congressional District. The district stretches from Elmore County east to the Wyoming border, and from Lemhi County south to the Utah and Nevada state lines. It includes Blaine County.
The general election will be held Nov. 7.
Restoring salmon and steelhead runs would come as a great benefit to many rural communities in Idaho, Hansen said. The failure of Congress to find an effective solution to Idaho's dwindling salmon runs is hurting local economies in small towns like Stanley, Challis, Salmon and Ketchum, he said.
"Anglers and tourists should be flocking to these towns in the summer to enjoy the magnificent fish that used to fill the Salmon River," Hansen said. "Yet Congress has sat idly by as salmon spiral ever closer to extinction."
Until 1978, when salmon fishing ended on the upper end of the Salmon River near Stanley, families and anglers would come to Central Idaho to watch and catch salmon migrating from the Pacific Ocean to reproduce and die. "A whole generation of Idahoans probably doesn't even realize that salmon once played an important role in the local economy," Hansen said.
Hansen advocated that policy makers should be studying all of the costs of recovering salmon in Idaho. This includes the costs of subsidizing four dams on the Lower Snake River in Washington, which most fisheries scientists agree are the leading impediment to salmon reaching Central Idaho's vast spawning grounds in the Salmon River and Clearwater River watersheds.
Throughout the world, there are not many places where salmon runs are so close to high mountain communities like in Central Idaho, he said.
And Hansen said these communities need the economic benefit of restored salmon runs. "Talk about economic development in Central Idaho," he said.
Special interests in Congress representing the utilities and other large industries benefiting from the continued existence of the four Lower Snake River dams have succeeded in preventing the topic of dam removal from being openly discussed, Hansen said.
"They don't trust us as communities to discuss it and to weigh the costs and benefits of all the options." Based on his belief that the Capitol is full of corruption, Hansen has refused to accept large donations. Instead, he's asking for small donations - less than $100 per person - from a large pool of ordinary citizens.
Somewhere between 700 and 1,000 private citizens have already donated to his campaign, Hansen said. Those donations will go to pay for gas and other basic necessities of Hansen's on the road, town-to-town campaign.
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