Gregg Servheen: Removing Lower Snake River Dams the only way to save salmon
Sat., Feb. 18, 2023
By Gregg Servheen
If Idaho’s wild salmon and steelhead were as abundant as the words and money spent on them, its rivers would be full of these wild fish. In fact, Idaho’s high-quality climate buffering waters are all but empty. More words and funding will not restore these wild fish unless they remove the four Lower Snake River dams.
This is my opinion as well as that of more than 60 other resource scientists and managers I’ve asked to sign on to this piece (to see those names, read this column at spokesman.com). Managing these fish and their lands and waters has been our collective responsibility. We understand the predicament. Idaho Code states that wild salmon and steelhead are to be preserved, protected, perpetuated and managed. These remarkable fish are a crucial part of Idaho’s identity and heritage. The region’s tribal nations coexisted with them for centuries. The U.S. government has tribal treaty and trust obligations to preserve and protect these wild fish.
Throughout the Pacific Northwest, including Idaho, we have made tremendous investments to restore and enhance the creeks, rivers and watersheds supporting wild salmon and steelhead. Millions more dollars have been spent building and operating salmon and steelhead hatcheries to boost wild populations and provide recreational and tribal fishing opportunities. Millions more are spent counting, tracking and assessing fish response, trends and ecology. While we have learned a great deal over decades of efforts, three clear lessons stand out: Idaho’s wild salmon and steelhead will go extinct unless we remove the four Lower Snake River dams. We have taken all the halfway measures. Removal of the dams is the best all but guaranteed action that will sustain these fish.
A famous adage states that insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results. Continuing to restore Idaho’s increasingly empty salmon and steelhead creeks and rivers while the four lower Snake River dams remain in place is, quite simply, insane.
Idaho’s state motto, “Esto Perpetua,” is Latin for “It is Forever.” By place and by birth, wild salmon and steelhead have a claim to that ideal.
Removing the dams will affect some businesses and people. We are not insensitive to this fact. However, impacts will be local and temporary. Legislation such as Rep. Mike Simpson’s proposed Columbia Basin Initiative both alleviates impacts and builds new and lasting solutions. The long-term ecological, economic and societal gains to Idaho and the region from salmon recovery will vastly outweigh and outlast any temporary downsides of dam removal.
Professional nonpartisan evidence repeatedly confirms these dams need to go. In 1998, Idaho’s Fish and Game Commission voted to remove the four Lower Snake River dams. It has been 25 years since this decision, the dams still stand, and our problem has only grown more dire. Idaho’s wild fish have no more time. So, to prove we are neither fools nor insane, let’s do the best and right thing for wild fish and ourselves: Remove those dams. We can do this.
Gregg Servheen lives in Boise. He is a professional wildlife biologist with more than 40 years of experience in Idaho and the PNW. He is a fly fisherman, hunter, birder, backpacker, and lover of nature, Idaho and its people.
The following people have signed on to this column:
Don Anderson, Idaho Fish and Game/National Marine Fisheries Service
Kimberly A. Apperson, Idaho Fish and Game
Robyn Armstrong, U.S. Forest Service/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service/Nez Perce Tribe
Alison Beck Hass, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Chuck Blair, CH2M Hill
Bert Bowler, Idaho Fish and Game
Stephen Bouffard, Idaho Fish and Game/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Jody Brostrom, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service/Idaho Fish and Game
Dave Burns, Washington Department of Game/U.S. Forest Service
Dave Cadwallader, Idaho Fish and Game
David Cannamela, Idaho Fish and Game
Don Chapman, University of Idaho
Ted Chu, Idaho Fish and Game
Ann DeBolt, Bureau of Land Management/U.S. Forest Service
Steve Duke, US Fish and Wildlife Service
Steve Elle, Idaho Fish and Game
Jim Esch, U.S. Forest Service/National Marine Fisheries Service/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Fernando Espinosa, U.S. Forest Service
George Farrow, Bureau of Land Management
Mary Faurot Petterson, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service/U.S. Forest Service
Mark Gamblin, Idaho Fish and Game/Alaska Game and Fish/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Chris Gaughan, Idaho Fish and Game/Idaho Office of Species Conservation/Lemhi Soil and Water Conservation District
Nick Gerhardt, U.S. Forest Service
Bill Goodnight, Idaho Fish and Game
Dave Hayes, U.S. Forest Service/Bureau of Indian Affairs
Roy Heberger, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Tom Hemker, Idaho Fish and Game
Dan Herrig, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service/U.S. Bureau of Reclamation
Terry Holubetz, Idaho Fish and Game
Ned Horner, Idaho Fish and Game
Maurice Hornocker, U.S. Geological Service/private
Bill Horton, Idaho Fish and Game
Rich Howard, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Bill Hutchinson, Idaho Fish and Game
Steve Jakubowics, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation/ Federal Energy Regulatory Commission/CH2MHILL
Keith Kiler, Idaho Fish and Game
Steve Knick, U.S. Geological Service
Tony Latham, Idaho Fish and Game
Don Martin, Idaho Dept of Environmental Quality/Environmental Protection Agency
Sam Mattise, Bureau of Land Management
Robert Hooton, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife
Scott Marshall, Alaska Game and Fish/Idaho Fish and Game/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Bill Mullins, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service/U.S. Geological Service
Steve Nadeau, Idaho Fish and Game
Kerry Overton, U.S. Forest Service
Fred Partridge, U.S. Forest Service/ Idaho Fish and Game
Steve Pettit, Idaho Fish and Game
Charlie Petrosky, Idaho Fish and Game
Bill Platts, Idaho Fish and Game
Herb Pollard, Idaho Fish and Game
Gary Power, Idaho Fish and Game Former Commissoner
Jim Reynolds, U.S. Geological Service
Cindy Robertson, Idaho Fish and Game
Tom Rogers, Idaho Fish and Game
Roger Rosentreter, Bureau of Land Management/Boise State University
Signe Sather-Blair, Bureau of Land Management/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Alan Sands, Bureau of Land Management/Nature Conservancy
Dan Schill, Idaho Fish and Game
Richard Scully, Idaho Fish and Game
Chris Servheen, US Fish and Wildlife Service
Bob Unnasch, Nature Conservancy
Jim Unsworth, Idaho Fish and Game/Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Monte Wilson, Boise State University
Roger Yensen, College of Idaho
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