Salmon advocates you need to not lose sight of the actual goal while you trumpet the "benefits" of increased spill over the dams. The problem with incremental approaches is that you can lose sight of what actually is the ultimate goal, and that is a long-term solution to degraded salmon habitat, including migratory habitat, which will allow wild salmon and steelhead to recover on their own. If you expend too much energy on getting increased spill in perpetuity (this time through legislation instead of court orders) you will likely get beached on some shallow shoal and fail in your ultimate goal. The ultimate goal is to decrease the mainstem dams in order to increase the likelihood that wild salmon and steelhead will still be here (and thriving) when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers finally stops dredging Lower Granite Reservoir in 2074. OK, OK, I know, Lower Granite Dam would be gone if our goal is achieved and the dredging (long term dredging) would be a moot point.
I read something the other day from Greg Stahl of Idaho Rivers United, and I have nothing against him or that organization as I am a member, but what he said was troubling to me. It was immediately troubling to me and I almost wrote this post from the hip that day. He said something to the effect that increased spill will buy our wild salmon more time. Yes, that is likely true, but the troubling thing to me is that what are we buying time for salmon if we aren't actually working diligently toward the real goal of removing four lower Snake River dams?
I know the environmental community is reeling from some recent defeats and more so from some absolutely wrong-headed analysis. Some environmentalists actually believed the stories that came out that they reached too far and that is why Idaho hunters, trappers and government agencies cut the wolf population in half since August.
To the environmental community, you can never reach too far. The wolves and you were hoodwinked by an Idaho representative who properly read the political tea leaves and got a secret rider passed in the eleventh hour on a government funding bill that if it didn't pass would shut down the government (April 2011). Rep. Mike Simpson, tried and essentially succeeded with the same (not as secret because he's now on radar) move in December that put bighorn sheep in serious jeopardy.
Buy time for what? I ask you environmental community, are we buying time so we can figure out every single other threat there is to wild salmon and steelhead so that we can think of something ridiculous (you know like moving bird colonies, killing sea lions, killing pikeminnow, driving our boats at birds) to do to end that threat rather than ending the single biggest threat (four lower Snake River dams)? Are we buying time for a future Republican Administration or possibly a Democratic Administration that has no understanding of fish that will push through a new rule that makes us count hatchery fish with wild fish and thereby removing all threatened Snake River stocks?
We really don't have time and increased spill, as good as it is, hasn't even gotten us to a 2 percent SAR, so let's quit fawning over the new student in school and notice the zits. I know, I know, some of you believe there is a magic solution out there where everybody wins and nobody loses and all we need to do to get to that point is to sit around a table with the opposition to wild salmon recovery in the Snake River Basin and the solution will appear. Somebody will lose and somebody will give ground (i.e. lose ground), just make sure it isn't wild salmon and steelhead that continue their losing streak.
What I am saying is you had better have a strategy and timeline in place before you start talking about these side issues that "buy time" because you are expending a lot of energy, capital and political capital on getting something in place that isn't the solution and I might add something that the enemies of wild salmon and steelhead recovery will fight you tooth and nail on and use other people's money to do so.
What are we buying time for? Four dams, Ice Harbor, Lower Monumental, Little Goose and Lower Granite need to go if wild salmon and steelhead of the Snake River Basin are to be given a chance.
Quit trying to be friends with your enemies and remember you are advocates for salmon, not advocates for collaboration. If you are going to save these fish, you are going to have to go to the mattresses. If you think your opponent isn't, you really need to go to a dictionary and look up gullible and naive. You can never go too far in advocating to save these fish and wildlife from the relentless "progress of man." Quit worrying about the PR war and save the fish and wildlife before the future comes and the wild fish are gone and all you have to hang onto is that you played fair in an unfair world. The fish and wildlife deserve that from you and me.
We aren't talking about taking electricity away from people (it can be made in many, many other ways), we (if you've spent any real time on Lower Granite and some of these other lakes) really aren't talking about taking away people's recreation (trust me, they will take to the "new" river in greater numbers because the actual river has 10 times the people recreating on it than the reservoir does), and I'm fairly sure with a railroad no more than 100 yards from the shore of these lakes the massive shipping that occurs (let's see, one tow boat pushing three barges and a Corps of Engineers juvenile salmon barge over a four day span recently) can easily be mitigated for, and I've already discussed the irrigation question being answered by longer pipe for the 13 farmers who actually use these reservoirs to irrigate.
So, be bold, don't be ashamed to stand up for wild salmon and steelhead. And to all you other environmentalists out there, don't be afraid to stand up for wilderness, wolves, grizzlies, Selkirk woodland caribou, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, lynx and whatever else stands at the ledge of the abyss of history with mankind's hand squarely planted in its back pushing.
Remember that while there are legitimate arguments we need to consider, most of the arguments are born out of laziness and a society loathe to change or progress and unabashed greed (things all humans should be against). This country went to the moon before I was born, I would hate to think that our collective pinnacle came in 1969 and this is the downward spiral some 40 years on. Inspire your fellow Americans to work harder and come up with better solutions that don't threaten our natural heritage and kill off our fish and wildlife. That's the cause and it's nothing to be ashamed of, nor nothing to back away from. So, the next time you read a bunch of crap about how you tree huggers pushed too hard to save something and that's why you lost, brush that bullshit aside and understand you didn't lose because you cared too much (that's what they want you to believe, that way they've already got you meeting them halfway down their agenda road and not on some point amenable to you). Last April, wolf advocates, you lost because somebody pulled a fast one and got others to pass it along and sign off on it who should have stood up for you (it really was that simple and to place a guilt trip on you when it was the actions of one man is beyond the pale). So, please, stand up (unashamed, unapologetic) for these fish and wildlife or they will be gone. There will be time enough then for all of us to be ashamed and sorry.