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Governor's Salmon Work Group looks to address salmon recovery in Idaho

Posted at 3:50 PM, Jan 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-20 12:42:26-05

BOISE, Idaho — Governor Brad Little created a salmon work group to come up with ideas on how to help the salmon return to Idaho; the group met in Boise this weekend.

The group is made of different stakeholders from all over Idaho in different industries. They are attempting to come together to create positive changes in policy.

Katherine Himes, the group facilitator who works at the University of Idaho, believes that this new group provides a lot of different perspectives to the issue of salmon recovery.

“I think it is really innovative, the Governor put together over 20 different stakeholders and they represent almost every dimension of salmon and steelhead here in Idaho," said Himes. "This is really different than having one report with dissenting opinions.”

This weekend, the group learned about the four H's: excessive harvest, degraded habitat, hatchery practices and impassable hydro.

Presentations included NOAA biologist Brian Burke, who informed the group how ocean conditions affect salmon. U.S. Forest Service scientist Russ Thurow did a lecture on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River.

"Salmon need three things: They need natal habitat, they need a migration corridor to and from the ocean where we measure metrics of survival and then they need that estuary and ocean," Thurow said.

The work group also got to hear from the people of Idaho during a public forum on Friday night and while almost everybody mentioned breaching four dams on the Snake River, the public forum also showcased how much people care and how important the salmon run is for Idahoans.

"My primary approach was appealing to empathy, it’s a complex issue with a lot of people all with different interests," said Will Tiedemann of Boise who spoke to the work group. "No complex problem with different viewpoints is ever solved harmoniously without empathy, so I encouraged the group to look at different viewpoints."

The goal of these meetings is to come up with policy changes that work for the different stakeholders and give the salmon a fighting chance to make the perilous journey to the ocean and back to Idaho to spawn.

"I think that means we are going to have to come up with a broad range of recommendations and some of them are going to have to be pretty bold," said Justin Hayes of the Idaho Conservation League. "We can not be tweaking what we are already trying, we are really going to have to double down as a state, as a region, and come up with plans that are bigger in scale than anything that has ever been done before."

The work group has three more Boise meetings on the calendar in March. In April, they will travel to Lewiston and in July they will be in Riggins.