September 21, 2008 in City

Idaho tribes join regional fish run pact

Court OK needed; some fighting plan
By REBECCA BOONE Associated Press
 

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, but the state of Oregon has opposed the plan.

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 in entering into a MOA (Memorandum of Agreement) 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 recovery these fish. We’re not going to sit back and continue to rely on the feds to recover the fish.”

The Lemhi band of the Shoshone lived in central Idaho’s Salmon area and were called “agai-dika,” or “salmon-eater” in the Shoshone language. It was only when the federal government moved the band to the Fort Hall Reservation in eastern Idaho that they left, though they were given treaty rights to continue hunting and fishing in the region so they could survive, he said.

Other groups of Shoshone lived in the Boise Valley and fished for salmon and steelhead as far south as what is now Twin Falls, said Bacon, before the federal government gave them the choice between moving to the Fort Hall Reservation or the Duck Valley Reservation in southern Idaho near the Nevada border. Most of them chose Fort Hall, Bacon said.

“This proposed agreement will assist the Tribes with providing co-management opportunities for fish and wildlife populations and their habitat,” said Shoshone-Bannock Tribal Chairman Alonzo Coby in a prepared statement. “We will utilize nutrient supplementation, artificial propagation and habitat restoration following the best available science to contribute to the recovery of ESA listed and non-listed fish and wildlife.”

Under the proposal, the Yakama will receive $330 million, the Colville $200 million, the Umatilla $150 million and Warm Springs about $80 million. The Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission also agreed to the settlement and will get about $90 million. The money will largely go toward fish hatchery improvements and habitat restoration. In Colville country, the money will restore water and fish to Salmon Creek, which has been dry for decades due to irrigation demand.

Idaho also signed an agreement with federal regulators worth $65 million, and Montana agreed to terms for $15.5 million. Washington state also supports the accords.

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