Most of the time, it is easy, amazingly easy, to get people to sign our petition urging the federal government to remove the four dams on the lower Snake River. We are limited only by the number of stops on our tour and the number of fish wranglers who can speak to the public about our issue.
Folks almost always sign the petition when they learn that:
- One species of Pacific salmon (Snake River coho salmon) has already gone extinct;
- Just three individual Snake River sockeye salmon returned to spawn last year (three (3) ... count'em: one, two, three!);
- The federal government has spent more than $7 billion taxpayer dollars on failed efforts to protect these fish (such as sucking juveniles out of the river and placing them in trucks to drive them around the dams) and they plan to spend billions more, even though these practices will not protect or restore the species;
- Family-owned commercial and sport fishing businesses all along the coast have suffered greatly in the four decades since these salmon-killing dams have been built;
- The decline in Columbia and Snake River salmon populations means that the U.S. federal government is (once again) violating its treaty obligations with Native American nations.
Once or twice a day, we speak to someone who is unmoved by these facts. They want to protect endangered species or they wouldn't be talking to us; but removing four federally operated dams ....?
I know what they are thinking. They believe the dams are permanent fixtures in the environment. Immutable barriers to migrating salmon.
I remind them that when my parents were born, none of these dams existed. Heck, I am older than all but one of the four dams on the Lower Snake River (Ice Harbor was constructed in 1962).
"Concrete doesn't last forever, y'know".
I never need to say more than that. People remember that they've tripped on a cracked sidewalk or had to repair the foundation on their house. If concrete doesn't last forever, then the dams won't last forever. If the dams haven't been there forever and they're not going to be there forever, then the only questions are: When will the dams come down? Will it be before or after we lose the four species of wild salmon that still spawn in the Snake River basin?
Once they've followed that train of thought, even the most skeptical Road Show visitor will sign the petition.
Only the sky is forever and THE RIVER BATS LAST...