White House releases new reports on salmon recovery

Published 7/12/2022  |  Idaho Rivers United

Map graphic courtesy of NOAA Fisheries Report

The White House, along with four federal agencies, announced the availability of two reports today that focus on rebuilding Columbia Basin salmon populations and Lower Snake River dams (LSRD) power replacement. The reports come as part of an ongoing effort by the Biden Administration to engage in regional salmon recovery efforts and lead the discussion surrounding dam breaching. The federal government, for the first time, has upheld the scientific reality that nothing short of LSRD removal is necessary to recover Idaho’s salmon.

“Momentum continues to build toward a free-flowing, restored Snake River. With the Administration and its agencies recognizing the indisputable science of recovery, and the necessity of removal, we can start moving forward in steps as a region. Fortunately, Congressman Simpson and Senator Patty Murray have given us the blueprint to start acting immediately,” said Nic Nelson, Executive Director of Idaho Rivers United.

“These two reports add to the picture – that we are working alongside regional leaders to develop – of what it will take over the decades ahead to restore salmon populations, honor our commitments to Tribal Nations, deliver clean power, and meet the many needs of stakeholders across the region,” according to the White House press release.

It has long been clear that large-scale change is needed. Inaction on LSRD dam removal exacerbates inequality in the region and will continue to provide diminishing returns to stakeholders. The impending extinction of wild salmon perpetuates injustice related to tribal sovereignty as well as economic and cultural hardships for rural towns and Indigenous communities that depend on abundant fisheries.

“Business as usual will not restore the health and abundance of Pacific Northwest salmon. We need a durable, inclusive, and regionally-crafted long-term strategy for the management of the Columbia River Basin,” said CEQ Chair Brenda Mallory, who is coordinating a Federal interagency effort, launched in October 2021, to develop information and analyses in support of Federal and regional decision-making in the Columbia River System.

This urgent message has been communicated by Northwest tribes for decades – the four Lower Snake River dams must be removed. As recent resolutions by the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians and National Congress of American Indians make clear: the decimation of salmon runs is a violation of treaties and other commitments made with tribes by the federal government. Preventing extinction is a matter of justice.

Idaho Rivers United commends the White House for stating that LSRD dam breaching is necessary in order to recover Idaho’s wild salmon and that replacing the power generated by the four dams is possible. Wild salmon and steelhead and those that rely on them are in dire need of leadership and swift action at the regional and national level.

Members of Congress and the White House must now take decisive steps towards a plan that restores the Lower Snake River via dam removal, while investing in clean, affordable power, maintaining a reliable transportation system for agricultural communities, and fulfilling marginalized sovereign tribal agreements with the government.

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