BOISE – The eastern Idaho-based Shoshone-Bannock Tribes are joining four American Indian tribes in the Columbia River corridor, two states and three federal agencies in an agreement designed to improve fish runs in the Pacific Northwest.
Though the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes don’t live near the parts of the Columbia, Snake and Salmon rivers where salmon are known to run, they maintain treaty-protected traditional hunting, fishing and gathering rights on unoccupied land outside the Fort Hall Reservation, including parts of the Salmon and Snake rivers and their tributaries, said Bill Bacon, the tribes’ attorney.
The Yakama Nation, Colville, Warm Springs and Umatilla tribes and bands, and federal hydropower regulators entered the agreement earlier this year. It commits federal agencies to give the tribes $900 million to spend toward salmon recovery in exchange for the tribes dropping out of a lawsuit challenging dam operations.
Idaho and Montana have also signed on; Oregon has opposed it.
The Nez Perce Tribe has also refused to sign on, with tribal leaders saying they believe that removing dams is the best way to protect endangered and threatened fish. Some environmental groups also fear the agreement doesn’t offer enough protections for fish in the Columbia River Basin over the long term.
The portion of the agreement with the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes still must go through a 30-day comment period with the Bonneville Power Administration, Bacon said, and it is expected to receive final approval in November. Under the plan, the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes will get about $61 million over 10 years to use in restoring and enhancing fish habitat, renovating a hatchery that the tribes will use to breed and stock the rivers with more fish, and other related activities.
The entire plan still must win approval in federal court.
“The reason we were interested … is because we were the ones who put the Stanley Basin Sockeye on the endangered species list in the early 1990s – we’re the ones who asked the federal government to do that,” Bacon said. “And really, there’s not been any significant recovery of that fish in 20 years. What we’re hoping to do is take action ourselves to engage in our own effort to recover these fish. We’re not going to sit back and continue to rely on the feds.”