August 13, 2011 in Opinion

Guest opinion: Saving salmon requires leadership

Paul Fish Special to The Spokesman-Review
 

Like thousands of other outdoor recreation businesses and companies in the Northwest, Mountain Gear depends on wild backcountry, healthy rivers and recreation access for our company’s bottom line. We understand firsthand the direct link between a healthy environment and a strong economy.

That’s why I signed the “Salmon Mean Business” letter with over 1,000 other American businesses, asking the Obama administration to get serious about salmon recovery efforts in the Northwest.

Mountain Gear is thankful to be based in Spokane, with its unparalleled backyard of wild lands, scenic mountains, great rivers and wild salmon. The region’s great outdoor recreation opportunities provide a high quality of life that attracts a talented and educated workforce important to our company and the local economy.

One of our greatest treasures is the Snake River and its wild salmon and steelhead. The basin’s many rivers (including the Salmon, Clearwater, Grande Ronde, Wenaha, and the Snake itself) are renowned for their fishing, rafting and hiking. The entire Columbia/Snake River Basin was once the most productive salmon watershed on the planet, with as many as 30 million fish returning to spawn each year.

Unfortunately, the health of this river system and its famed fisheries has been declining for decades because of poor management and lack of political will.

American taxpayers and Northwest ratepayers have spent more than $10 billion on salmon recovery measures that have failed to protect and restore endangered wild salmon in the basin. Declining salmon numbers have curtailed fisheries and hurt regional fishing and outdoor recreation economies throughout the Pacific salmon states of Alaska, California, Oregon, Washington and Idaho.

The future of the Snake River has reached a critical tipping point. A federal judge has once again ruled the federal government’s proposed salmon plan illegal and inadequate. Science has shown again and again that any viable salmon recovery effort must include the removal of four outdated and obsolete dams on the lower Snake River.

For the past eight years, however, federal agencies have attempted to circumvent this scientific consensus by failing to even consider dam removal as a viable option.

Guided by science and good information we can restore these magnificent fish, generate new recreational opportunities, invest in rural towns, enhance the region’s clean energy and transportation infrastructures, and save taxpayer dollars.

Recovering wild salmon and steelhead will create thousands of jobs and generate billions of dollars – not just for outdoor and sport fishing companies like mine, but also for rural and coastal communities throughout the Northwest and beyond.

But we need leadership. It’s time that Washington state’s elected leaders, including Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, joined with President Obama to convene a science-driven stakeholder forum.

A solutions table can yield a real recovery blueprint that will restore the Columbia Basin’s wild salmon and steelhead runs to vibrant, self-sustaining levels.

Let’s work together to create family-wage jobs, restore salmon and recreation, enhance the Northwest economy and protect our outdoor way of life.

Paul Fish is the president of Mountain Gear.


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