NW Governors' Salmon Recovery Plan a Positive Step,
by Trout Unlimited
PORTLAND, ORE. -- Trout Unlimited, the nation's leading coldwater conservation organization, today commended the governors of Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Washington for attempting to put substantive salmon recovery ahead of politics in the joint Regional Strategy to Fish Recovery announced today. However, TU's assessment of the Strategy found it differs little from the federal plan set for release later this week, and therefore still falls well short of the measures necessary to meet salmon recovery goals.
"Any step toward regional consensus on recovery measures has to be viewed as a positive one," said Jeff Curtis, TU western conservation director. "But the common ground the governors seem to have found still won't get the region and the salmon to where they need to be. You have to keep coming back to Judge Marsh's admonishment that the system calls for a major overhaul. It seems we're still in the neighborhood of a minor tune-up."
The governors' plan acknowledges the federal government's recommendation not to make any decision on bypassing the four lower Snake dams - most likely for 10 years - and offers no apparent rebuttal. Instead, the governor's plan calls for increasing habitat access with the dams in place and for creating "salmon sanctuaries."
"The problem with the salmon sanctuary idea is that we've already got them," said Curtis. "For spring/summer chinook, much of the most pristine spawning habitat we have left is sitting there in central Idaho wilderness right above the dams; all it lacks is the fish." Snake River spring/summer chinook spawn mainly in mainstem tributaries.
"For fall chinook, the habitat never went away, it's just under a couple-dozen feet of water behind the dams," Curtis said. Snake River fall chinook spawn in the river's mainstem.
"We need to get away from this notion that habitat issues and hydropower issues are distinctly separate," Curtis said. "For Snake River stocks, you get to habitat by improving the hydrosystem, and there's no way around that."
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