Restoring Idaho's fisheries could bring over $500 million annually to state economy


A study from Idaho Rivers United shows that salmon and steelhead restoration isn't only the right thing to do, it's pretty great for our pocketbook, too.

From IRU's press release:

Study — Restored salmon/steelhead fisheries could spark economic boom for Idaho towns

Don Reading, Ben Johnson Associates, o) 208-342-1700
Robert Zimmerman, Mayor of Riggins, o) 208-870-6445
Stan Davis, Mayor of Salmon, o) 208-756-3214
Steve Barnard, Stanley City Council o) 208-774-2895
Greg Edson, Stanley-Sawtooth Chamber o) 208-733-1921

Boise — Fully restored salmon and steelhead fisheries in Idaho could produce $544 million in economic activity a year, with most of the activity benefiting small, rural communities in the Salmon and Clearwater River basins, according to a study released today by civic and business leaders from around the state.

The study, The Potential Economic Impact of Restored Salmon and Steelhead Fishing in Idaho, was conducted by Dr. Don Reading, a Boise economist who works for the Florida-based economic consulting firm, Ben Johnson Associates. It was reviewed and endorsed by the Mayor of Riggins, City of Stanley and business and economic development organizations in Salmon, Challis and Stanley.

"This study shows that the recovery of salmon and steelhead fisheries in the Snake River Basin to sustainable, abundant and harvestable levels would provide substantial economic benefit to Idaho," Dr. Reading said. "Not surprisingly, our work showed that the largest benefits would occur in the Upper Salmon River region — towns like Salmon, Challis and Stanley — where salmon fishing has been prohibited since 1978."

"The headwaters of the Salmon River offered important salmon and steelhead fisheries in the 1950s and 60s. Old-timers here say that the Stanley Basin was a mother lode for salmon fishermen," said Stanley-Sawtooth Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Greg Edson. "This study is important because it shows us what we have lost over the years, and more importantly, it shows us what restoring wild salmon and steelhead fisheries could bring to our community.

"Stanley's economy depends on tourism dollars," Edson said. "Restored salmon fishing, and a more dependable steelhead fishery, would give people more reasons to visit our town. This study shows how important it is, in economic terms, to restore salmon and steelhead populations in Idaho and in the Upper Salmon Basin." Communities that could expect the highest annual economic returns from a fully restored fishery are:

  • Lewiston ($51.9 million)
  • Orofino ($47.2 million)
  • Salmon ($40.4 million)
  • Riggins ($35.7 million)
  • Challis ($26.8 million)
  • Stanley ($14.2 million)

Reading, an author of three earlier studies examining various salmon and steelhead fishing economies in Idaho, used Idaho Department of Fish and Game data on fishing effort during the 1950s, 1990s and 2001 to determine the value of restored fisheries. He then applied economic data from limited fishing seasons in the mid-1990s and 2001 to paint the economic picture of total potential benefits.

Reading's previous study, The Economic Impact of the 2001 Salmon Season in Idaho, showed $90 million in economic activity during a very limited salmon fishing season in Idaho. A 1996 study by Reading detailed similar economic benefits generated by steelhead fishing.

Although Reading says his figures are a bit on the conservative side, given limitations of models used to calculate indirect economic benefits, economic development officials in the Upper Salmon Basin said they would welcome any portion of the economic activity the study predicts.

"In reviewing this study some people felt the estimates for Salmon and Challis seemed a bit high," said Salmon Mayor Stan Davis, who also serves on the board of the Lemhi Economic Development Associations. "But even if you cut these numbers in half, restored salmon fishing would be a great benefit to our communities. Right now we receive no benefits from salmon fishing.

"I think what's important now is that we work together, as communities, as a state, and as a region, and figure out how to get the job of salmon recovery done," Mayor Davis added. "This is not an opportunity we should let pass by."

Mayor Bob Zimmerman of Riggins knows well the benefits of strong salmon and steelhead fishing seasons. "Salmon and steelhead fishing has represented about a third of our town's economic activity over the last couple of years," Zimmerman said. "Good fishing seasons can determine whether or not some of our businesses end the year in the black, or in the red. For us, a restored fishery — with dependable, annual seasons — would certainly allow our business community to plan better, do more marketing and benefit more from this incredible resource."

For more information, read the report.