On Tuesday, April 23rd, the Andrus Center for Public Policy will host government representatives, fish advocates, grain growers, energy executives and other stakeholders at its annual environmental conference at Idaho’s Boise State University. The theme of the 2019 Andrus conference is Energy, Salmon, Agriculture and Community: Can We Come Together?
Trout Unlimited and Wild Steelheaders United salute the Andrus Center for taking on the challenging topic of how we can restore the legendary salmon and steelhead runs of the Snake River while maintaining economic and community vitality. We hope this forum fosters a productive discussion. Attendees will be waiting to hear if any new thinking may be making its way into the dialogue around this issue.
Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) will be the keynote speaker and Trout Unlimited’s president and CEO Chris Wood will sit on one of the event’s panels. Check out the agenda for the conference here.
This conference comes at a crucial time for the recovery of Snake River steelhead and salmon. In recent years, the number of fish making it past a gauntlet of dams to return to Idaho and northeast Oregon has been abysmal—so poor, in fact, that the Idaho Department of Fish and Game is having trouble getting back enough brood stock to support their hatchery program. Steelhead returns in 2018 and 2019 were among the lowest on record.
Habitat is not a major limiting factor for Snake River wild salmon and steelhead. Thousands of miles of high-quality habitat await, but not enough fish are returning to use it. And the habitat has gotten better in recent decades. Trout Unlimited has partnered with the State of Idaho, the Nez Perce Tribe and many other government agencies and organizations to restore degraded areas of the Snake.
If we are going to get a return on these major habitat investments, we need to get more fish above the dams.
Einstein is reported to have said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.” The key to recovering durable runs of salmon and steelhead in the Snake River system is breaking free from the status quo and developing new, collaborative solutions that benefit both people and fish.
The technical, social and political issues that stand in the way of fish recovery in the Snake River are not insurmountable. What we need is open and honest dialogue that will show us a path forward. Because if we don’t do something different, we stand to lose not just the Snake’s irreplaceable salmon and steelhead. The region’s inexpensive power supply will also be at risk.
Stay tuned to our blog for a report out from the conference next week.