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Region-wide vigil for sockeye salmon happens on Saturday

Posted at 1:39 PM, Nov 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-19 15:39:15-05

BOISE, Idaho — Thirty years ago the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes pushed to get sockeye salmon on the endangered species list and they did.

In 1991 only four wild sockeye salmon returned to their spawning grounds in Idaho and in 2021 that number was also four, but also this year the conversation about salmon and breaching four dams on the lower Snake River has gained momentum.

"Removing those four dams on the lower Snake River is the most significant action we can take to recovering this fish population," said Abbey Abramovich of the Idaho Conservation League.

This Saturday the Idaho Conservation League, Idaho Rivers United and the Sierra Club will hold a vigil on the steps of the Capitol from 4:00 - 5:30 p.m.

It's part of a region-wide effort to bring more voices to salmon recovery with vigils happening in Sun Valley, Oregon and Washington.

"It’s a regional call to action," said Abramovich. "Representative Simpson has shown incredible leadership in Idaho and now other elected officials across the northwest are starting to create conversations and hopefully take action soon."

Idaho Representative Mike Simpson came up with a plan to breach the four dams this past spring by assessing the value of the dams and attempting to make everyone whole if the dams were removed, advocates for salmon cheered the proposal while the Idaho Farm Bureau who uses the river corridor to transport wheat and other materials from Lewiston were against it.

In October, environmentalists were excited to hear the Biden Administration take steps to protect salmon outlying how the eight dams in the Columbia River basin will be managed in 2022.

Also in October, Governor Jay Inslee of Washington and Senator Patty Murray announced they will come up with a plan for the salmon which includes a potential plan of action before the summer of next year.

"These salmon have been on the brink of extinction for frankly longer than I’ve been alive," said Abramovich. "So we really need urgent action because the status quo isn’t working."

Salmon means so much to the tribes, anglers and economically for fishing communities like Riggins, but the salmon don't make it back to their spawning grounds in the Salmon River of Idaho like they used to generations ago.

“I feel like I’ve been incredibly lucky to be able to see sockeye salmon and they didn’t go extinct before this time," said Abramovich. "I’m hoping we can return them to abundance so we can see why Redfish Lake was named Redfish Lake."

The vigil happens at the statehouse from 4:00 - 5:30 and it also gives environmental groups a chance to show their appreciation for all the hard work the Native American tribes have done to help the salmon.