Salmon are Our Heritage and
by Kristin & Mark Troy
In the spring of 2000, I returned to Salmon -- 11 years after my high school graduation. Arriving in a Cessna 206 with a river-guide husband, a baby in my arms, a toddler beside me, and a sick cat breathing down my neck, I was headed full throttle into health and wealth, and happiness.
Three weeks earlier, after a full five minutes of contemplation, my husband and I had decided to purchase a river outfitting business based in Salmon.
We moved into an avocado shag palace, rolled our sleeves up, smiled at our entrepreneurial aptitude and got to work.
For about two months. Then came a blast of suffocating hot air, and the wildfires began.
We were unable to operate on the river, and it rained ashes for weeks.
That fall, I realized the Clear Creek Fire had been only one bullet out of an entire round of economic hits that had occurred since I had left. The mine had closed. There were no logging trucks rumbling through town. My ranching friends were going broke.
All of us had to face reality and count our losses.
During this process, one of the notable tally marks represented the namesake of both our town and the river that runs through it.
Salmon fishing ended on the upper Salmon River in 1978. And while the absence of salmon wasn't new, I did find it curious that after all these years, and all the "protection" put into place, the wild salmon population continued to dwindle.
Then in 2001, our downriver neighbors in Riggins were granted a coveted shot at their own salmon-fishing season.
A cornucopia of good fortune, their salmon fishing season poured $10 million dollars into their struggling economy.
When those numbers were released, I was in the pool of people stunned by the amount of money generated in a community one-third the size of our own.
Riggins' windfall was a beacon of hope for the rest of the river corridor, but also a sad reminder of what we were being denied.
The Idaho Study released in February gave us a virtual look at how our rural economies could be impacted. Half a billon dollars flowing into Idaho would be a tremendous boost. $40 million to my community would be monumental.
I have a blue-eyed first-grader who caught his first steelhead on the riverbank behind our house at age 3. And while he doesn't understand the economic impact these fish have on our family and many other rural Idaho families, he does understand that there is magic involved for the salmon to make it back here to their spawning grounds.
Our local leaders are hard at work on this issue. But we need our congressional leaders to commit to finding real solutions to this solvable problem. These fish are our heritage and should have been our inheritance.
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