Salmon returning to Idaho's Lemhi River
Spawning salmon in Idaho Salmon returning to Idaho's Lemhi River © ComDesigns/TNC

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Statement on Idaho Governor's Salmon Workgroup Report

The Nature Conservancy in Idaho is encouraged by the collaborative, solution-oriented perspectives and supports the consensus-based recommendations.

In April of 2019, Idaho Governor Brad Little tasked the Office of Species Conservation with establishing a workgroup dedicated to addressing salmon and steelhead issues. The Governor’s Salmon Workgroup brought together a diverse set of stakeholders, including The Nature Conservancy in Idaho, to collaboratively develop recommendations for Idaho’s policy on salmon and steelhead recovery. On December 30th of 2020, the final recommendations of the Workgroup were delivered to the Governor.


 

The Nature Conservancy in Idaho offers sincere thanks to Governor Little and his Office of Species Conservation for convening this historic forum of interests and stakeholders from throughout Idaho and for the call to develop unified policy recommendations to assist the Governor in shaping Idaho’s policy on salmon and steelhead recovery.

We are honored to participate in the Workgroup and to contribute to the report and recommendations submitted to Governor Little this week. We are encouraged by the collaborative, solution-oriented perspectives our fellow Workgroup members brought to the process and grateful for the opportunity to better understand the wide range of viewpoints represented.

Restoring wild Idaho salmon and steelhead to meaningful and self-sustaining abundance is of utmost importance to TNC. We are pleased the Workgroup agreed to a mission statement and common goals that recognize this effort is not just about delisting these fish from federal endangered species protection, but about true recovery and a return to the foundational role salmon and steelhead play in Idaho’s ecology, culture, economy and way of life.

In addition to more than three dozen specific, consensus-based policy recommendations, the Workgroup identified overarching principles the state must recognize and fulfill, first and foremost of these the recognition of Tribal dependence on salmon and steelhead to meet spiritual, cultural, subsistence, and economic needs as a prevailing necessity of their culture and society, and the responsibility to honor federal treaty, executive order, and trust obligations to the Columbia Basin Tribes.

We are grateful to the dozens of subject experts who shared research and findings to help the Workgroup better understand the many factors contributing to the decline of Idaho salmon and steelhead and to the more than 900 members of the public who provided written or verbal comments to the group. We thank the Workgroup facilitators, Katherine Himes of the James A. & Louise McClure Center for Public Policy Research, Mike Edmondson and Scott Pugrud of the Governor’s Office of Species Conservation, and the staff and interns who provided support.

The challenges facing Idaho salmon and steelhead are complex and interconnected. The Workgroup recognized some issues we can address in Idaho – improving habitat, hatchery management and water management – while others, such as addressing passage in the lower Snake and Columbia Rivers, predator issues, harvest and ocean conditions, require broader attention and regional solutions. Furthermore, salmon and steelhead recovery will require that Idaho, our neighboring states and sovereign tribes of the Columbia Basin, federal agencies and stakeholders come together to address all of these factors.

TNC is proud of the leadership role we were able to play in ensuring the looming issue of climate change was recognized in the Workgroup report and of the specific recommendation that Idaho adopt an unambiguous position acknowledging the reality of climate change and commit to actions and policies to mitigate its impacts on salmon and steelhead.

The Governor’s Salmon Workgroup brought together a diverse spectrum of perspectives and positions with a call to find consensus and common ground and the final report constitutes that list of recommendations on which the group found consensus. TNC fully supports these recommendations and we believe, if implemented, these steps will show meaningful progress toward salmon and steelhead recovery. However, these recommendations alone will not achieve our goals of meaningful and sustainable abundance. While we acknowledge the consensus recommendations the Workgroup brought forward fall short of a recovery plan, the simple fact that we all stayed at the table, that we shared perspectives and found common ground, gives us hope that Idaho can still move forward with the bold action it will take to save these fish while there is still time.

Recognizing the urgency and importance of immediate action to reverse the decline of Idaho salmon and steelhead, we quote from the report, “More conversations are necessary.  More collaboration will be needed.  More work must be done.” TNC is committed to the urgent work at hand to bring our fish back to abundance and we look forward to continuing partnership with the state of Idaho and our federal representatives, sovereign tribes, and the stakeholders with whom we’ve forged deeper trust and understanding through this process toward our common goals.

 

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 72 countries and territories: 38 by direct conservation impact and 34 through partners, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.