Wild Snake River salmon and steelhead are on the brink of extinction, but we can bring these incredible fish back to abundance. Tackling the most ambitious river restoration project in history with the goal of redeveloping and reinvigorating the Northwest economy is not a challenge, it is an opportunity.
Questioning whether dam removal alone could recover Snake River salmon and steelhead misses the point. The question we need to answer is this: Can we recover abundant, healthy, and fishable and harvestable Snake River salmon and steelhead with the four lower Snake River dams in place?
The equation is simple. It’s hot. It’s going to get hotter, which is why it is so urgent to increase access for salmon and steelhead to the thousands of square miles of the most climate-resilient, high-elevation habitat in the Snake River basin by removing the lower four Snake River dams.
Today, there are many so-called “mitigation hatcheries” in the Snake River basin that are intended to produce enough salmon and steelhead to make up for the wild fish that were lost when their habitat was blocked by dams.
With momentum building to halt the disastrous decline of the Snake River’s salmon and steelhead by removing four dams on the lower river, opponents are scrambling to lay blame elsewhere. Enter the big, bad ocean.
If you’re wondering why salmon and steelhead populations in the Snake River are in trouble, the answer is obvious: It’s the four dams on the lower Snake and the reservoirs behind them: They kill too many fish.
These remarks were delivered on Thursday, May 13, at the 2021 Environmental Conference at the Andrus Center for Public Policy at Boise State University by Chris Wood, the President and CEO of Trout Unlimited.
This week, American Rivers named the Snake River America’s No. 1 Most Endangered River of 2021, pointing to perilously low returns of Snake River salmon and steelhead, and the urgent need for lawmakers and communities to come together to develop a comprehensive economic revitalization plan.
Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID) has stepped up to lead toward a more optimistic future for the entire Snake River basin. Rep. Simpson laid out a proposal that would create new clean energy sources, build new infrastructure, and ensure the needs of local communities, irrigators and shippers are met. The proposal would also restore runs of healthy, harvestable Snake River salmon and steelhead by removing the lower four Snake River dams.
This past Tuesday, 10 of the most respected scientists who, collectively, have studied Pacific Northwest salmon and steelhead for 400 years, penned a letter to the governors of Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington stating that achieving healthy and harvestable/fishable abundances of Snake River salmon and steelhead cannot be achieved without removing the four lower Snake River dams.