Study: Restoring Idaho Fish Populations
by Associated Press
BOISE -- Idaho's economy could be pumped up by more than $500 million if salmon and steelhead fishing were fully restored, according to an industry study released this week.
An economic analysis prepared by Ben Johnson Associates, a Florida-based research firm, predicted that direct spending by anglers could be as much as $195 million annually.
Indirect spending would account for the remainder, with the combined total economic benefit of $544 million, the report says.
The study did not suggest how to restore salmon and steelhead runs, which have declined over the past 60 years and rebounded slightly in the past decade.
"This study is focused on the fact that this is a very valuable asset and resource to Idaho that would mean a lot to the rural communities who are losing their natural resource base of mining and timber," said Don Reading, the economist who produced the analysis.
The report is based on estimates of what would happen if all of the Clearwater and Salmon rivers and their tributaries were opened for fishing, as they were in the 1950s.
Currently, about 42 miles of river are open to salmon and steelhead fishing during specific seasons. The largest reach is between Riggins and Whitebird, with shorter sections south of Riggins and south of Yellowpine.
Last year, a separate Idaho Fish and Game Department survey showed anglers spent $438 million on fishing trips in 2003.
The Clearwater region saw the most benefit, where anglers spent $87 million on food, lodging, guides and equipment. Clearwater is a haven for salmon and steelhead anglers, who fish the Salmon and Clearwater rivers.
Tourism spending is critical to small communities like Riggins, where fishing is just slowing down after a bustling two months of spring and summer Chinook salmon fishing.
Riggins Mayor Bob Zimmerman said his community has seen first hand the benefits of an open salmon season since 1997. He said that in 2001, in an eight-week season, the town's businesses earned $10 million as anglers lined the riverbanks and lined up at the town's hotels, restaurants and outfitter shops.
"Actually, we became reliant on salmon seasons and it would be a loss for us to lose the salmon season at this point," Zimmerman said. "It's the difference between finishing the year in the black or finishing the year in the red."
The report was released at a Statehouse news conference Tuesday and organized by Idaho Rivers United, an environmental-focused group that is often at odds with traditional Idaho industries such as mining, grazing and timber harvesting.
Salmon Mayor Stan Davis said that when salmon started declining and were listed as endangered species, those natural resource industries dried up.
"We as a community fought to go back to our old way of life, we spent a lot of energy and emotion trying to go back to our old way of life," Davis said.
"We decided to look forward instead of backward," Davis continued. "I believe this study shows that restored fisheries could mean $40 million to our economy."
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