On June 29th, five members of Congress from Washington and Oregon introduced legislation that would override a federal court's ruling that the federal government's salmon plan for the Columbia and Snake rivers was deeply flawed and would reinstate the plan through 2022.
Needless to say, it's legislation we can't support and we're not the only ones.
An op-ed inMonday's Lewiston Tribune (ID) blasted the legislation, calling it no more than an election appeal - a reliance on "slogans that will flame out the second they're exposed to an honest debate on the national stage."
Our take? Steelhead and salmon in the Columbia and Snake rivers deserve a lot better than the federal salmon plan tossed out by the court that the legislators are trying to resurrect. The evidence of that fact is overwhelming. This year's Snake River wild steelhead runs are projected to be the worst on record and we have made little progress overall toward wild steelhead recovery.
It is time for major stakeholders in the Columbia and Snake basins to come together to chart a new path forward, one that works for people and fish. This approach has worked to resolve similar complex, long-standing conflicts in salmon and steelhead country, including in the Klamath and Yakima river basins.
That soapbox and more in this week's edition of the Wild Steelheaders United newsletter.
By Rob Masonis
Lonesome Larry was the only sockeye to make it from the Pacific Ocean to Idaho's Redfish Lake in 1992. That was only one year after Larry's fellow Snake River sockeye salmon were protected under the Endangered Species Act because they were on a path to extinction. Despite the passage of almost three decades and the expenditure of billions of dollars, Larry's offspring continue to have few traveling companions on their 900 mile journey to Idaho. The same is true for all wild salmon and steelhead in the Snake River basin, which have required protection from Endangered Species Act since the 1990s.
Today, recovery of Columbia and Snake River salmon remains a distant goal. By contrast, these were once the most abundant populations of salmon and steelhead in the world. This year, the numbers of wild steelhead returning to the Snake River are projected to be the lowest on record. And a bill recently introduced in the United States House by five representatives from Oregon and Washington isn't helping in the quest to find solutions for restoring wild steelhead to the Snake River.
While our Initiative is focused on the West Coast where steelhead are native, there is also interesting research being done elsewhere in areas where steelhead are not native. For example, most anglers know by now that we also have "steelhead" in numerous streams draining the Great Lakes region and the East Coast. Those fish in the Great Lakes have been there for decades, and are admired and loved by thousands of anglers.