Bush team delivers two blows to salmon
Written by The Columbian   
Tuesday, 28 December 2004 11:25

The holiday season was not looking very merry for Northwest salmon and steelhead or the people who depend on them.

The Bush administration recently delivered two decisions that reverse efforts by the region to protect and restore salmon and the streams on which they depend.

These decisions are also a blow to fishing-dependent businesses and all of the rural, fishing-dependent communities from Idaho to Alaska, not to mention the American Indian tribes who were promised harvestable wild salmon populations in treaties signed by the federal government in the 1850s, and the many Pacific Northwest citizens who value wild salmon as part of our natural heritage.

In a stunning revelation on Nov. 30, the federal government announced an 80 percent cut in habitat protections for our salmon and steelhead runs here in the Northwest. This major policy change could quickly lead to more streamside development and logging that could choke our rivers with silt and contaminants. On the other hand, if we can protect habitat and recover salmon to abundant numbers, the people of Clark County would see cleaner water for drinking and recreation, not to mention all the economic benefits harvestable salmon runs bring.

In Clark County alone, hundreds of volunteers have put in thousands of hours working to restore and protect salmon streams. They have done everything from planting trees to purchasing land with spawning habitat. Land trusts, the city of Vancouver, Clark County, and the state have all contributed millions of dollars to help these local efforts.

The Bush administration's slashing of critical habitat protections is akin to doing away with speed zones in front of schools. It is common sense that there are certain sensitive areas where we need to exercise extra responsibility. Just as we need to drive a little slower around schools and kids, we need to exercise some caution in our activities around salmon streams.

There is nothing cautious or conservative about the Bush administration's salmon policies. The second decision the administration delivered on Nov. 30 was its new salmon plan or biological opinion for the Columbia and Snake Rivers. This plan is a major step backwards. Not only will it fail to recover self-sustaining, harvestable runs of salmon and steelhead, it could allow for further declines and put these fish on the path to extinction.

Money for nothing

When you step back and look at the plan as a whole, the bottom line is simple: This administration wants to spend $6 billion taxpayer and electric ratepayer dollars on measures that have very little potential to recover abundant, fishable wild salmon populations. They want the people of the Northwest to accept a plan that could sound the death knell for fishing-dependent businesses and communities and an important part of our way of life.

We won't accept either of these rollbacks to the hard work of the region to protect and restore our rivers and streams to bring wild salmon back to healthy, harvestable and self-sustaining levels.

It is time for our region's leadership to echo the will of the people and demand solutions that will create real benefits for salmon and people in the future. This is the kind of future residents of the Northwest want and deserve.

Tammy Mackey, of Washougal, is president of the Clark County chapter of the conservation group Trout Unlimited.

 
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