Take out dams and keep the Snake River salmon’s last, best place

Wild Pacific salmon and steelhead face a dire situation, with 28 populations listed as threatened or endangered, emergency fisheries closures, and some wild Chinook runs approaching “quasi-extinction” levels. The Snake River, with its thousands of miles of pristine wilderness habitat, is seen as the last hope for saving these imperiled species. However, the presence of four dams on the Snake River in Eastern Washington is blocking the way to recovery, pushing these once-thriving populations towards extinction.

Three years ago, U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, along with Gov. Jay Inslee and U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, acknowledged that removing the dams on the Snake River and reopening hundreds of miles of rivers to salmon and steelhead could help in their recovery.

The four dams on the lower Snake River, relics of the 1950s, have been hindering the natural journey of salmon and steelhead. Instead of a free-flowing system, these fish face a two-week journey through warm reservoirs created by the dams, leading to high mortality rates.

Despite spending $25 billion in unsuccessful efforts to recover these fish, scientists at the National Marine Fisheries Service agree that dam removal is the centerpiece action needed to recover wild Snake River salmon and steelhead.

It is imperative to take decisive action to demand dam removal and aid in the recovery of these iconic species. While the dams provide social and economic benefits, the survival of wild salmon and steelhead depends on a free-flowing river. The choice to act and stand with the tribes who rely on these fish for their livelihood is crucial in preventing the extinction of these precious species.

Chris Wood, president and CEO of Trout Unlimited, emphasizes the importance of giving these fish a free-flowing river and the urgency to act to prevent the loss of such a valuable part of our natural heritage.

Historically, the Snake River has served as critical habitat for wild Pacific salmon and steelhead. Stretching through pristine wilderness, it has provided essential resources for these fish for thousands of years, sustaining both the natural ecosystem and the indigenous tribes that depend on salmon and steelhead for cultural and subsistence purposes.

The importance of preserving these species cannot be overstated, and taking action to save them is not only a matter of conservation but also honoring treaties with tribal nations and maintaining the ecological balance of our natural world. As a nation, it is crucial to prioritize the recovery of these iconic fish and ensure that future generations can witness the wonder of their awe-inspiring journey.

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