Idaho’s steel­head salmon on a path to ex­tinc­tion

The Idaho Statesman (Sunday) - - OPINION -

In 1997 the Na­tional Ma­rine Fish­eries Ser­vice (NMFS) listed Snake River Basin steel­head as “threat­ened” un­der the En­dan­gered Species Act (ESA). Both A-run and B-run wild steel­head are fed­er­ally pro­tected. A-run steel­head spend one to two years in the ocean be­fore at­tempt­ing to re­turn to their spawn­ing grounds, while the B-run spends two to three years in the ocean. Un­for­tu­nately, list­ing these iconic fish un­der the Act has not pre­vented them from be­ing at high risk of go­ing ex­tinct. The past two years wit­nessed the low­est re­turn of wild steel­head to Idaho since the 1970s, and the 2019 re­turn is ex­pected to be as bad or worse.

Due to lack of ac­tion by the state of Idaho to pro­tect wild steel­head, Friends of the Clear­wa­ter re­cently joined five other groups in fil­ing a 60-Day No­tice of In­tent to Sue (NOI) the state of Idaho and the Idaho De­part­ment of Fish & Game (IDFG) for au­tho­riz­ing a steel­head fish­ing sea­son, de­spite these dan­ger­ously low num­bers, and de­spite not hav­ing a Nmfs-ap­proved fish man­age­ment plan and ESA “in­ci­den­tal take per­mit.” This per­mit is re­quired un­der the En­dan­gered Species Act when­ever a listed species may be “harmed, ha­rassed or killed ...” dur­ing a pro­posed agency ac­tion — in this case, the steel­head fish­ing sea­son.

Idaho has not had a take per­mit since 2010. The fed­eral govern­ment has not ap­proved Idaho’s Fish­eries Eval­u­a­tion & Mon­i­tor­ing Plan (FEMP) in eight years. It is cru­cial that man­age­ment plans be up­dated and le­gal. As a re­sult of be­ing non­com­pli­ant with the law, IDFG com­mis­sion­ers closed the steel­head sea­son ef­fec­tive Dec. 7, 2018. The state’s ac­tion shut­ters steel­head fish­ing on the Clear­wa­ter, Salmon and Lit­tle Salmon rivers, as well as the Idaho bank of the Snake River.

Pub­lic ac­count­abil­ity has also re­sulted in the fed­eral govern­ment fi­nally an­a­lyz­ing Idaho’s FEMP. This should have been done years ago but fed­eral agen­cies have cited more “press­ing needs” for not do­ing their job. NMFS is cur­rently ac­cept­ing pub­lic com­ments to as­sist them in their eval­u­a­tion of Idaho’s FMEP.

The com­ment pe­riod closes Dec. 6. We en­cour­age ev­ery­one who cares about the fu­ture of wild steel­head to par­tic­i­pate in this process.

Visit https://www.west­­ fish­eries/salmon_s­teel­head/ida­ho_­fish­eries/ http:/www.west­­­eries/ salmon_s­teel­head/ida­ho_stl­hd_noa.html

Adding to Idaho’s salmon and steel­head woes, Gov. Butch Ot­ter re­cently signed an ex­ten­sion of Bon­neville Power Ad­min­is­tra­tion’s (BPA) Fish Ac­cords, guar­an­tee­ing the state’s con­tin­ued sup­port for more of the same failed poli­cies that have led to present con­di­tions. The gov­er­nor con­tin­ues to take the bribe.

By re-sign­ing the BPA “Fish Ac­cords,” Idaho’s gov­er­nor sold for a pit­tance the state’s in­de­pen­dent voice re­gard­ing fish pol­icy. His con­tin­ued pledge of si­lence ig­nores col­laps­ing fish runs and back­hands Ida­hoans who rely on fish for food, and are de­pen­dent on fish­in­gre­lated jobs.

The sta­tus quo ap­proach to fish man­age­ment is badly bro­ken, and un­less we make dras­tic changes, both salmon and steel­head will wink out. If the fed­eral govern­ment con­tin­ues to fail wild fish and fishde­pen­dent com­mu­ni­ties, then Ida­hoans need to call them on their neg­li­gence. And if the state con­tin­ues to sup­port the failed fed­eral pol­icy through the Ac­cords, and in re­turn, bank­rupt its own peo­ple, then we need new lead­er­ship and de­ci­sion mak­ers. Ida­hoans and the fish de­serve much bet­ter.

Brett Haver­stick is the Ed­u­ca­tion & Out­reach Direc­tor for Friends of the Clear­wa­ter in Moscow.


In this 2014 photo Matt Corsi, right, and Brian Knoth, left, both fish­eries bi­ol­o­gists with the Idaho De­part­ment of Fish and Game, ex­am­ine a steel­head. There is a re­newed push to re­move Lower Gran­ite and three other dams on the Snake River to save wild salmon runs.

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