Idaho Gov. Brad Little’s workgroup on salmon and steelhead recovery will meet once again today and Thursday to review progress and take public comment on how to rescue the dwindling fish.
The workgroup, consisting of a wide cross-section of nearly two dozen stakeholders, began meeting periodically last June. The workgroup has been tasked to collaborate on understanding the problem and coming up with solutions to restore salmon and steelhead populations that have fallen in the recent decade to about 25% of average. This year’s returning numbers to Idaho have also been dismal to the point of canceling spring salmon fishing seasons.
In this week’s video conference meeting sub groups will report and discuss on the four H’s: Habitat, harvest, hatcheries and hydro. After those reports, the workgroup will hear public comments on Thursday morning. The public can submit comments online or to the workgroup via the video chat function.
One major contention facing the group is whether to breach the dams on the lower Snake River. Stakeholders in the workgroup represent environmentalists, ranchers, recreationists, power companies and state officials.
Although billions of dollars have been spent in Idaho, Oregon and Washington to save the 13 species of Columbia Basin salmon and steelhead, population numbers continue to spiral downward toward extinction. Four of those fish species are in Idaho.
“I just feel strongly that helping salmon thrive and fostering a strong Idaho economy produces good jobs,” Little said when he formed the workgroup. “Those two things are not mutually exclusive.”
Justin Hayes, executive director of the Idaho Conservation League and member of the workgroup, wrote in a recent guest editorial for the Post Register that the workgroup is making progress.
“I’m encouraged by real progress and agreement among workgroup members that we seek to restore wild salmon and steelhead to real abundance, that we need to look broadly at all of the causes of decline, and that we need to work on issues in Idaho and also outside of our state,” Hayes said. “That said, we still have much work to do and we don’t have agreement yet on many things. We have discussed the need to make the lower Snake River safer for fish as they migrate from Idaho to the ocean and back, but we have not yet found consensus on how. Science tells us that fish need a healthy, flowing river. Some are unconvinced by this and worried about what dam removal could mean to the interests they represent. These are good discussions to be having.”