The real lesson from Lonesome Larry is one of human nature's ugliest attributes. It is that we wait far too long to recognize a problem and once we do recognize a problem we would rather construct a far too complex "solution" provided that it showcases our vast effort in saving salmon or whatever rather than doing the one thing we know will fix the problem. We knew in the early 1990s, we knew in the late 1970s, that the four lower Snake River dams were far too many hurdles placed in the way of Redfish Lake sockeye. We knew they were in peril in the 1980s and what did we do? Nothing, we didn't do a single thing until only one male came back one year. That's the real lesson of Lonesome Larry. It's why if we do save the Snake River Basin wild salmon and steelhead, it will be in the 11th hour (actually a minute to midnight) or maybe even later as was the case with sockeye. It will be when the spring, summer and fall Chinook, steelhead and sockeye are in their death throes and finally enough people think they might be worth saving. And there is still the possibility, as was the case with wild coho salmon of the Snake River Basin, that we won't save them at all, that we won't even try. The wild coho went extinct in the Snake River Basin in the 1980s without even so much as a few paragraphs obituary running in the media.
If we do finally decide to breach the dams and once and for all give our wild salmon and steelhead back the necessary habitat and migratory habitat for the wild fish to restore themselves to sustainable levels, that will be the day when people finally realize electricity isn't endangered. That will be the day when we realize there are alternatives to ever diminishing barge traffic on the lower Snake River. And when that day comes, you can bet the bank that again man will trumpet all the technological and biochemistry wonders that he is able to perform to save these lowly creatures and you can bet the bank that I will be there to remind the world that we could have done this earlier and with far less effort. But that is also the inherent problem of having government agencies in charge of recovery efforts. They don't make the money they spend and therefore they are built to wait until the very last moment before they do anything because now they've got an emergency that will get them additional funding.
You are going to read lots and lots of things about Lonesome Larry this year and this is the only place where you will read the real lesson of Lonesome Larry. This story will repeat itself, because even though we know now what will save the wild salmon and steelhead of the Snake River Basin, we won't do that. Even so-called "salmon advocate" team members now tell the purists that we shouldn't "ignore the science" when it comes to increased spill. The agencies that are presiding over the extinction of Snake River Basin wild salmon and steelhead ignored the science for decades, why is it that I now have to pay attention to some sparse science that suggests increased spill is helping? Seriously, we haven't even gotten to a 2 percent SAR during these years of increased spill (i.e. failure) and I've now got to pay attention to the science now? What about the 80-plus percent of fisheries biologists (scientists) who said the only way to save the Snake River Basin wild salmon and steelhead was to breach the four lower Snake River dams? Why is it OK to ignore all the science about dam breaching, but we have to pay attention to the science on increased spill?
If we remove those dams will electricity in the Pacific Northwest become endangered? It's a simple question with an obvious answer, no. If we don't remove those dams will Snake River Basin wild salmon and steelhead be around in 20 years? Again, a simple question with a simple answer, no.
If anything, during this anniversary year of Lonesome Larry, I'll celebrate that one sockeye's resolve to see it through to the end and make it to Redfish Lake. I won't be celebrating all the technological wonders mankind finally decided to go through so we could create (not save) a brand new "natural" (not wild) population of sockeye for Redfish Lake.