Thursday, March 24, 2011

Students call on Congressman DeFazio

Derek Kimbol with his boys.

This past fall, several students at the University of Oregon spent time reaching out to fellow students about an open letter to Congressman DeFazio. The letter asks DeFazio to "support a stakeholder process – bringing together fishermen, farmers, energy users, and decision-makers – to craft durable solutions for communities of the Columbia and Snake Rivers that are based on sound science and economics, and an all-options approach."

Last week, one of the main student organizers, Derek Kimbol, submitted the final letter to Congressman DeFazio from nearly 300 students and young people in Oregon's 4th congressional district.  Derek decided to share his cover letter with us (below).  Here is the full sign-on letter from students.  You can also find more information here on DeFazio's role in Northwest salmon recovery.

Dear Congressman DeFazio,

My name is Derek Kimbol and I am currently a senior in Environmental Sciences at the University of Oregon.  I write to you regarding the attached letter about salmon recovery in the Columbia and Snake Rivers from students and young people in Oregon's 4th Congressional District.

Salmon are an essential part of my cultural heritage.  I am Modoc Indian and an enrolled member of the Klamath tribes with family in the Hoopa, Grande Ronde, Warm Springs and Yakima Tribes.  I consider salmon a part of my family as well.  What's more, salmon play a key role in our Northwest ecosystem and economy.  They support hundreds of plant and animal species in the coastal temperate rain forest, the inland high desert, and the high mountain ranges of central Idaho and northeast Oregon. And these salmon support thousands of jobs in a diversity of industries throughout our region.  We as people of the Northwest deserve a real voice in deciding the fate of this precious resource.

This past fall I worked with several other students on the attached letter.  For a period of about two weeks, we reached out to fellow students and student groups on campus at the University of Oregon and Lane Community College.  The reaction was very positive and there was a strong call for change.

I was disappointed to read your op-ed with Congressman Hastings praising the current federal efforts to recover salmon.  We have unfortunately not reached the peace you mention and the federal agencies have failed to craft a long-term, science-based plan that proposes new actions to recover wild salmon and steelhead.

The Nez Perce Tribe, the State of Oregon, and many of your colleagues in Congress – Representative Blumenauer and Senator Jeff Merkley among them – have helped keep pressure on the federal agencies to implement stopgap measures, such as spilling water at the dams, that are working to protect salmon until a lawful and science-based plan with a broader set of solutions for salmon and the Northwest can be crafted.  Newly elected Governor John Kitzhaber supports an open conversation about all options as well; I hope you will stand with him.

History has shown that NOAA and the Bonneville Power Administration do not have the best interests of salmon or salmon people in mind when managing the rivers and operating their dams.  If the federal judge rules NOAA's plan illegal again, I hope you see this as an opportunity to change course and embrace alternatives to the four lower Snake River dams.

Again, I hope you read the attached letter and take it to heart.  Salmon and salmon-dependent communities deserve a fighting chance and they need you in their corner.


Derek Kimbol
Senior in Environmental Sciences
University of Oregon

Here's another link to the sign-on letter. 

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