Presidential Memorandum directs federal agencies to restore healthy and abundant salmon populations across the Columbia River Basin  

Published 9/27/2023  |  Idaho Rivers United

Today, the Biden Administration released a Presidential Memorandum directing federal agencies to use all of their authority to restore healthy and abundant wild salmon, steelhead and other native fish populations across the Columbia River Basin and to review and update any policies not aligned with that goal,” according to an Earth Justice press release.

As a plaintiff in the ongoing Columbia-Snake litigation, Idaho Rivers United applauds the administration’s efforts to restore Snake River Basin salmon. The Administration stated this is part of their “unprecedented commitment” to “honor the United States’ obligations to Tribal Nations and protect and restore America’s natural wonders for future generations.”

“Today will mark the inflection point in the decades-long battle to recover salmon and steelhead to Idaho. While the commitment and leadership from the Biden Administration is commendable, we must ensure that this Memorandum is adhered to – that agencies such as the Bonneville Power Administration, that have been given so much autonomy, make policy and operational changes that align with the overwhelming science that fish recovery is only attainable through broad changes to the hydrosystem on the Columbia-Snake River system, including removal of the Lower Four Snake River dams,” said Nic Nelson, Executive Director of Idaho Rivers United.

According to the press release, “plaintiffs in long-running litigation to protect threatened and endangered salmon in the Columbia River Basin applauded the announcement as a necessary step to ensure all agencies meet the whole of government commitments the Administration has made as the basis for the current stay of that litigation. The Memorandum will require all federal agencies, including the Bonneville Power Administration and others, to make the major changes necessary to restore these iconic as well as valuable species to a healthy abundance and honor our obligations to Tribal nations while also delivering affordable and reliable clean energy and supporting the region’s many economic and resilience needs.”

This announcement does not impact the current stay in litigation between the federal government and the plaintiffs, which was extended for 60 days from the end of August. However, it does add a more detailed point on the federal agency directives that were outlined earlier in the stay. In other words, the announcement firms up the whole “of government” approach to salmon recovery from the Administration – and adds important accountability for agencies that do not prioritize this directive.

This is a welcomed and timely announcement for meaningful salmon recovery in the Snake River Basin. Idaho’s wild fish remain on a pathway towards extinction, and the uncertainty surrounding low yearly return numbers and climate change-induced hot water conditions continues to impact the fishing economy in the state, as well as the myriad of plants and animals across the region that depend on these fish as a keystone species.

“The Biden Administration has now firmly placed the goal of healthy and abundant wild salmon and steelhead on the table – the science tells us that to achieve this goal for Idaho’s wild stocks, much less to ward off their imminent extinction, Lower Snake River Dam (LSRD) breaching and services replacement is the tool that will get us there. A unified, whole of government approach, with all federal agencies pulling in the same direction, is a huge step towards securing the clean energy and agriculture infrastructure transitions necessary for the region to move forward towards a free-flowing Lower Snake and abundant wild salmon runs,” said Stephen Pfeiffer, Conservation Associate at Idaho Rivers United

It is more imperative now than ever that elected leaders here in Idaho prioritize recovery of wild salmon and call on the region to utilize the funding and resources provided by federal agencies to transition away from the LSRDs. Idaho has everything to gain from returning abundant wild salmon runs to the Snake River basin. This announcement from the federal government is a hopeful sign that the region will make the clean energy and agricultural investments necessary to get us there.

Find the Memorandum here and the Fact Sheet here.

This post originally appeared on News – Idaho Rivers United.