Post Election Prospects for Wild Salmon

"That prompted immediate support from Chris Wood, a member of the national roadless panel and chief operating officer for Trout Unlimited."

2008 Elections:

What Does it Mean for Endangered Snake River Salmon?


Change has been the mantra of the 2008 election cycle. The call for change now has real meaning for the recovery of wild salmon and steelhead in the Columbia and Snake Rivers.


Starting in January, we will face a dramatically different political landscape. This email update focuses on a number of key changes in leadership in the Administration, United States Senate and House, with a particular emphasis on the Pacific Northwest.


In the last several years, the Save Our Wild Salmon Coalition has reached out to people and constituencies that are affected by the fate of salmon and the four lower Snake River dams:

business owners, farmers, and the public and private utilities that buy energy from the system of federal dams in the Columbia Basin, to name a few. The science and economics are clear - lower Snake River dam removal is the most cost-effective and biologically certain path to restoring healthy runs of wild salmon and steelhead. We can only get there, however, with solutions that serve salmon and people.


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In 2009, our newly elected leaders and the new administration must tackle the challenge of achieving a lawful, science-based, job-creating plan to restore Columbia/Snake salmon in a way that that also helps build efficient, modern transportation and clean, salmon-friendly energy infrastructure. With this election, a window for effective action has opened. We plan to work with and, when necessary, push our leaders to engage these issues, sponsor the dialogues, and build the solutions that Congress, in the end, will have to enact.


Here is a brief list of several key changes from November 4, followed by a number of short, relevant press excerpts from the last several months of the campaign. We look forward to continuing our work with you and others to transform the failed legacy of illegal plans, wasted dollars, declining stocks, and political deadlock into an effective, science-based solution that serves salmon and people, based on collaboration and leadership.

KEY ELECTION OUTCOMES that will affect Northwest salmon and steelhead recovery efforts:

1. Nationally - Barack Obama's election to the White House.

2. In Oregon - Jeff Merkley defeats incumbent Gordon Smith for the United States Senate.

3. In Idaho - Jim Risch replaces out-going U.S. Senator Larry Craig.

4. In Idaho - Walt Minnick defeats incumbent Bill Sali for the House of Representatives.


These excerpts below reflect recognition by these leaders of the importance of addressing the Northwest salmon crisis, the real challenges ahead, and the essential need to bring stakeholders together to find effective solutions.


1. From President-Elect Barack Obama (11.30.08 in



"Implementing a meaningful salmon population recovery plan will be a key environmental priority of my administration, and I support efforts to create a salmon recovery plan that balances all of these important environmental, agricultural and renewable energy interests."


2. Senator-Elect Jeff Merkley (11.5.08 in Open Letter to Oregonians from Conservation Leaders Endorsing Mr. Merkley):


"Wild salmon are an icon and a valuable economic resource of the Pacific Northwest. Unfortunately there are many challenges facing this iconic species, such as habitat destruction, insufficient stream flows, poor water quality, and dams that lack adequate fish passage. We are confident that Jeff will do everything he can to preserve and restore wild salmon populations for this and future generations and to ensure the economic certainty that restoring these populations will provide. For example, we agree with Jeff's pledge to allow science, not politics, to determine the best approach for protecting our salmon, including the option of removing the four lower Snake River dams if the science shows it is needed."


3. Senator-Elect Jim Risch (9.21.08 in Idaho Statesman article):


Now Risch wants to try the same approach with the complicated salmon issue, and he made a commitment Friday to sponsor such a process if he's elected to the Senate. That prompted immediate support from Chris Wood, a member of the national roadless panel and chief operating officer for Trout Unlimited.


The group that has 140,000 anglers as members nationwide - including 3,000 in Idaho - is one of the national groups suing the federal government and calling for breaching four dams on the lower Snake River to aid salmon. Even though the group is among the litigants, Wood said he prefers settling resource issues the way Risch did with the roadless rule.


"The only way we are going to recover these upriver salmon stocks is to create a table big enough for the people of Lewiston, eastern Washington wheat farmers, tribes, recreation and commercial fishermen to be made whole," Wood said. "I think the same thing that happened here can happen for salmon."


4. Representative-Elect Walt Minnick (11.19.08 in the Lewiston



Minnick countered he favors keeping all options open, including dam breaching, while bringing opposing sides to the bargaining table to find a solution before a federal judge imposes his own ruling in environmental lawsuits filed over dwindling salmon and steelhead numbers.




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