Snake River Dams Perspectives: John Appleton of Alpine Archery and Fly

In Snake River by Kyle Smith

John Appleton with a dime-bright wild steelhead.

Earlier this summer, TU released a report entitled “Why We Need a Free Flowing Lower Snake River” that lays out the scientific basis for the federal government’s conclusion that the best way to restore salmon and steelhead in the Snake Basin is to remove the four dams on the lower river.

Snake River salmon and steelhead populations are now so depleted there is a real possibility these runs – especially the legendary run of B-run steelhead – will be extirpated within the next ten years if we do not act. We have spent some $17 billion over the past several decades – with nothing to show for it, in terms of fish returns — to do pretty much everything to help them except the one thing that will really make a difference.

In recent weeks, many local guides and other fishing-based businesses dependent on the Snake’s salmon and steelhead fisheries have voiced their opinions in a variety of ways to help make the case for taking out Ice Harbor, Lower Monumental, Little Goose and Lower Granite dams. Alpine Archery and Fly in La Grande, Oregon is one such business. 

Alpine Archery and Fly’s owners, John and Anieta Appleton are talented competition archers, bow tuners, and passionate anglers. Last week, John wrote an op-ed in the East Oregonian newspaper that does an excellent job of summarizing what salmon and steelhead mean for his homewaters, his business, and for the communities of Northeast Oregon. 

Appleton writes,

Historically, the Grande Ronde River and its tributaries had abundant stocks of steelhead, Chinook salmon, and coho salmon. It was an incredibly diverse fishery. This is why the tribal nations lived in these areas. It is one of the many reasons settlers came here. Now, it is a fishery that has been relegated to life support, and it is time to do something about it. To put it simply — the Grand Ronde used to be a destination for anglers, but now very few people are traveling to Union County to fish for steelhead anymore. And it’s not because we don’t have the habitat.

Wild Steelheaders United and Trout Unlimited extend our thanks to John and Anieta for championing the most practical and economical solution to one of the biggest conservation challenges of our lifetime. We cannot allow Snake River salmon and steelhead to disappear forever from Idaho, and everyone knows what must be done if we are serious about reversing their decline. As John and Anieta state, we need our elected officials to step up and “put gridlock behind us, get to work and find some answers that meet the challenges we’re facing.” 

Please join us in supporting Alpine Archery and Fly and other local fishing-based businesses that are stepping up to support the case for removing the four Lower Snake dams.