More than 1,000 American businesses signed on to a letter sent Tuesday asking President Obama for a change in the government’s policy for restoring wild Columbia and Snake river salmon and steelhead.
And the letter signers want that decision making process to include them.
“Our salmon and our businesses deserve a new approach,” the letter says. “We urge you to seize this opportunity and bring together all stakeholders – fishermen, farmers, utilities and others – to work together to craft a lawful, science-based plan that restores salmon, protects this important food source, puts thousands of people to work, and helps to build a cleaner energy future.
“We pledge our sustained support and assistance to make this collaboration successful.”
The letter includes signers from 34 states include commercial and recreational fishing businesses; outdoor retailers and equipment makers; food, farm, restaurant and tourism businesses; and clean-energy groups.
“Columbia Basin salmon were first declared at risk of extinction nearly twenty years ago,” the letter says. “Since then, taxpayers have spent more than $10 billion on restoration efforts that have been largely unsuccessful because they fail to address the real causes of decline.”
The letter says that a recent court decision opens the door for discussions with stakeholders beyond the affected sovereigns. Judge James A. Redden in an Aug. 2 order declared NOAA Fisheries’ 2008/2010 Federal Columbia River Power System biological opinion illegal and ordered the federal agency to correct the strategy during a two-year remand.
Endangered Species Act BiOps assess whether listed fish, in this case 13 basin salmon and steelhead stocks, are jeopardized by federal actions, in this case Columbia and Snake river mainstem dams. The FCRPS was built through an ESA-mandated consultation between NOAA Fisheries and other federal federation and in collaboration with states and tribes.
Many of the letter signers have in the past supported dam breaching as a part of the recovery solution.
“Commercial fishing businesses, and many other related industry jobs up and down the west coast will keep shrinking or shut down if the government’s 20-year failure to restore endangered Columbia/Snake salmon doesn’t change,” said Zeke Grader, executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations. “We ask President Obama to hear our case, hear the court, and then change his salmon policy so salmon-based jobs stop shrinking and start growing.”
“Salmon recovery is a catalyst for job creation and growth in hundreds of outdoor and recreation-based companies, on the west coast and nationwide,” said John Sterling, executive director of The Conservation Alliance. “The more than 175 outdoor companies of The Conservation Alliance all need healthy habitats and watersheds for their customers to enjoy the products they make and sell, but federal salmon policy is not producing them. We need President Obama to change this. It makes no sense to keep spending billions of taxpayers’ dollars on a salmon policy that costs jobs instead of growing them.”
The letter signers says collaborative talks among all stakeholders is needed “to craft a lawful, science-based plan that restores salmon, protects this important food source, puts thousands of people to work, and helps to build a cleaner energy future.”
The letter is also being delivered to members of Congress.
“My family owned and operated stores and all the sportfishing businesses we purchase from in the Northwest and along the west coast are at risk if the government’s 20-year failure to restore endangered Columbia/Snake salmon doesn’t change,” said Dan Grogan, Co-owner of Fisherman’s Marine and Outdoor with three stores and headquarters in Oregon. “We need President Obama to comply with the court’s ruling, and to work with NW business leaders to correct his salmon policy and save jobs and those dependent on them.”
“It’s not just about fish, this is about all the family-wage jobs and all the industries these fish help support including the sportfishing industry. We need a transparent and science based approach to Columbia/Snake salmon recovery efforts,” said Scott Weedman, Co-Owner of Three Rivers Marine and Tackle in Woodinville, Wash. “We need a plan that works for both salmon and people in the region. We don’t have that yet, but I am confident we can get there with good leadership.”
The signers represent 16 business associations, most of which are fish-related, in Idaho, Washington and California. In all there were 392 signers from Washington, 216 from Oregon, 166 from Idaho, 112 from Alaska and 117 from California.
The PCFFA’s Glen Spain said the NOAA’s FCRPS BiOps have been the targets of litigation continuously for the past 18 years.
“The courts have been running the river,” he said. “It’s time to start a regional dialogue.”
“He’s certainly given us a window of opportunity,” Spain said of the judge.
Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association Executive Director Liz Hamilton said there are precedents for such collaborations. Many of the same sticky issues were resolved during negotiations to remove the Savage Rapids Dam in on the Rogue River in southwest Oregon, as an example, she said. The dam was demolished and removed in 2009.
“There are plenty of templates out there to look at,” Hamilton said. “Let’s get some people that want to get together and get it done.”
The letter and related content is available at www.nsia.org or http://www.wildsalmonmedia.org/