by Dr. Steve Bruce
Op-ed in the Idaho Statesman
Take action to save Pacific Northwest salmon here.
The Obama plan adopts the Bush plan's legal and scientific analysis unchanged and in its entirety. It makes a few small tweaks elsewhere, but does not require anything that would actually save fish. The most "major" change calls for additional actions to be studied -- though not necessarily enacted -- if listed species continue to decline precipitously.
The fundamental problem with the plan is that its goal seems to be to maintain endangered salmon in an endangered state rather than revitalizing them. The administration appears unmotivated to restore salmon abundance and their role in the ecology and economy. Here's what gives the administration's game away: The one salmon species that is already at levels low enough to trigger additional action in the new plan has been exempted from the new triggers.
Jane Lubchenco, the administration's point person for oceans and salmon, insists that "the actions in the plan will prevent further declines." But keeping salmon in a coma and on life support does not heal them, nor help the other species, including people, that depend on them. The likeliest outcome of a salmon strategy based on just avoiding extinction will be extinction -- and not only of salmon.
A wiser strategy would focus on restoring salmon's workhorse role for people and ecosystems. In the Columbia Basin, it would include removing four federal dams on the Snake River, which would open 3,000 miles of healthy streams above the present dams for three salmon species and double the spawning habitat for a fourth.
The Obama administration missed its first chance to hit the "reset" button on Pacific Northwest salmon strategy. But it's not too late to reconsider. It should embrace salmon abundance as the beating heart of the Pacific Northwest -- the flow of energy that connects and sustains people, fishing towns, bears, wolves, orcas, forests and the rivers and seas we all love and use.
There's another photograph I saw recently. Taken just two months ago where Puget Sound meets the Pacific, it shows a new orca calf emerging from the water atop its mother's back. The scientists from the Center for Whale Research who track orcas named her Star, hoping she will guide another seemingly intelligent mammal -- us -- to restore the salmon abundance she will need to become a mother herself 13 years from now. May she inspire the Obama administration to think again.
SEATTLE -- A little over a year after researchers feared a drop in the Northwest's endangered killer whale population meant disaster, the number of orcas has bounced back with six new babies and no whales lost.