Monday, September 26, 2011

A job creation opportunity for President Obama

The following is a guest blog from Paul Fish, president of Mountain Gear, an outdoor gear retailer based in Spokane, Washington.  Mountain Gear is one of over 1,100 businesses to call for decisive policy change in Columbia and Snake River salmon recovery. 

Please stand with Paul by taking action here. 

President Obama recently addressed the nation to outline a renewed plan for kick-starting an economy in crisis. As one piece of the larger puzzle, I urge the President, his administration, and members of Congress to take a close look at the opportunity to recapture lost jobs and create new ones by following good science and bringing people together to restore healthy, abundant runs of wild salmon and steelhead to the Columbia and Snake Rivers.  I stand ready to work with the administration on a new path forward.

Those of us who live in salmon country understand how healthy salmon populations and good jobs go hand in hand.  Like thousands of other outdoor recreation businesses, Mountain Gear depends on wild backcountry, freely-flowing rivers and healthy fish and wildlife populations for our company’s bottom line. We understand firsthand the direct link between a healthy environment and a strong economy.

Mountain Gear is thankful to be based in Spokane, with its unparalleled backyard of wild lands, scenic mountains, great rivers and wild salmon. The region’s great outdoor recreation opportunities provide a high quality of life that attracts a talented and educated workforce important to our company and the local economy.

One of our greatest treasures is the Snake River and its wild salmon and steelhead. The basin’s many rivers (including the Salmon, Clearwater, Grande Ronde, Wenaha, and the Snake itself) are renowned for their fishing, rafting and hiking. The entire Columbia/Snake River Basin was once the most productive salmon watershed on the planet, with as many as 30 million fish returning to spawn each year.

Unfortunately, the health of this river system and its famed fisheries have been in decline for decades due to poor management and lack of political will.

American taxpayers and Northwest ratepayers have spent more than $10 billion on salmon recovery measures that have failed to protect and restore endangered fisheries in the basin. Declining salmon numbers have hurt regional fishing and outdoor recreation economies throughout the Pacific salmon states of Alaska, California, Oregon, Washington and Idaho.

The future of the Snake River has reached a critical tipping point. Early last month, a federal judge once again ruled the federal government’s proposed salmon plan illegal and inadequate. Science has shown again and again that any viable salmon recovery effort must include the removal of four costly dams on the lower Snake River. (See for example the June 2011 “Resolution of the Western Division of the American Fisheries Society on the Role of Dams and Conservation of Snake River Salmon, Steelhead, Pacific Lamprey, and White Sturgeon”)

For the past eight years, however, federal agencies have attempted to circumvent this scientific consensus by failing to even consider dam removal as a viable option.

Guided by science and good information we can create many new jobs by restoring this magnificent fish, generating new recreational opportunities, investing in rural towns, enhancing the region’s clean energy and transportation infrastructures, and saving taxpayer dollars.

Recovering wild salmon and steelhead will create thousands of jobs and generate billions of dollars – not just for outdoor and sport fishing companies like mine, but also for rural and coastal communities throughout the Northwest and beyond.

It will not happen, however, without leadership. Seizing this opportunity depends on Washington state’s elected leaders, including Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, joining with President Obama to convene a forum driven by science and economics that puts stakeholders on equal footing with the federal agencies.

A Northwest ‘solutions table’ should be one part of a larger plan to get people working again – and solve other pressing problems at the same time. Done right, it can yield a blueprint to restore wild salmon and steelhead runs to vibrant, self-sustaining levels while creating much-needed family-wage jobs, investing in our economy and protecting our outdoor way of life.

Paul Fish is the president of Mountain Gear, an outdoor gear retailer based in Spokane, Washington. Paul Fish is one of more than one hundred companies in the outdoor gear industry – and more than 1,100 businesses overall - that supports an inclusive stakeholder settlement process in order to craft an effective, legal, and science-based salmon restoration plan for the Columbia and Snake Rivers, including a closer look at the removal of the four lower Snake River dams.

Again, please take action here to stand with Paul and the hundreds of other businesses across the country.

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