Governor’s Salmon Workgroup Wraps Up: Recap & What’s Next

Published 12/16/2020  |  Idaho Rivers United

Governor Brad Little’s Salmon Workgroup wrapped up a year and a half of discussion at their December 15th meeting. The Governor sat in on the first portion of the meeting, commending the months of hard work and collaboration that had taken place. Over the past 18 months, the work group crafted a set of consensus recommendations on salmon and steelhead recovery that will inform the State’s decision making.

Meetings were initially held across the state and typically included field tours to see salmon related work in action. The ongoing pandemic then forced the gatherings online, but collaboration between the diverse set of stakeholders continued.

Public participation throughout the meetings was high, with nearly 1,000 comments submitted either written or orally by citizens across Idaho and the Northwest. The overwhelming majority of comments advocated for comprehensive, decisive action to recover salmon and steelhead runs currently at very low abundances.

Extremely low Idaho salmon runs have for decades diminished the health of riverside towns and Tribal communities who depend on their once reliable abundance. The consensus recommendations are no recovery plan, but are meant to inform the Governor’s Office in future recovery actions. Agreement was reached on establishing a goal to recover our salmon and steelhead to healthy and harvestable abundance, beyond just delisting from the Endangered Species Act.

While envisioning a future with healthy, widespread salmon populations in the state was uncontroversial, recommending actions to get there proved more difficult. No consensus was reached on recommending dam breaching on the Lower Snake River as a part of a larger river restoration plan.

Breaching and the habitat restoration that would occur as a result, remains the only recovery action that will lead to abundant salmon and steelhead populations in Idaho. IRU continues to support this vision, and continues to communicate the urgency recovery actions must have to save our wild salmon populations.

Ultimately, the Salmon Workgroup provided a valuable venue for Idahoans and group members to communicate the importance of salmon to our region and the desire for decision makers to come together on an effective recovery plan in a timely manner. The health of salmon and steelhead populations have been marginalized far too long, and those that rely on the wild fish have suffered as a consequence. The Governor’s interest and intent surrounding salmon recovery is commendable. With recommendations from a diverse group of stakeholders in hand, the window of opportunity is now here for Idaho to lead on returning our abundant wild salmon home.

A document containing the recommendations and a large amount of material covered over the meetings will be delivered to the Governor’s office in the coming weeks and will be available to the public.

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