‘Salmon Stories’ features Idahoans speaking for anadromous fish

From Lapwai to Boise and from Salmon to Riggins, the residents of Idaho want more wild salmon in the Salmon River and more red fish in Redfish Lake.

In Salmon Stories, 11 Idahoans discuss during brief video interviews why salmon are important to their businesses, to Idaho’s ecology and to the region’s cultural heritage. Located atwww.idahorivers.org/protectsalmon/salmon_stories.aspx the project can also be accessed by going to www.idahorivers.org and clicking “Protecting Salmon,” then clicking “Salmon Stories: Video Tour of Idaho” and clicking the featured cities.

The project also includes a moving overview video of salmon jumping at Selway and Dagger falls during their summer 2010 return.

“In this long-running regional discussion about recovering salmon and steelhead, there’s a tendency to focus on politics, legal benchmarks and spreadsheets full of numbers. In some ways that’s unfortunate,” said IRU Assistant Policy Director Greg Stahl. “In Salmon Stories, we return to what salmon mean to everyday Idahoans. These are voices that too often seem suffocated by the government’s slick public relations machine. They are the voices of our neighbors and friends—people whose lives are impacted by the travesty of the status-quo approach to salmon recovery.”

Boise realtor Cherie Barton is among the Idahoans featured in the videos. Born and raised in Lewiston, her father helped build the lower Snake River dams that impede migration of salmon to and from the Pacific. Her father is also the man who taught a 7-year-old Barton how to fish.

“In those days my dad felt like clean water, pristine waters, taking care of the earth and taking care of Idaho was paramount, so we always did what we could to leave things the way we found them when we were out fishing or camping,” she said. “He would be so upset to see what the dams have done to the fish and the rivers and the economy. I just know how much he cared, and what he thought would be a help, I think he would be devastated that it didn’t turn out to be a help—and in fact turned out to be a hindrance.”

Barton, who was named Ada County’s Realtor of the Year in 2010, still frequently takes rod and reel to revisit the wild rivers of her youth.

“All you hear is the water. Nobody’s talking,” she said in her video. “You’re just one with that river, and it’s a phenomenal experience.

“Just the fact that the salmon go so many thousands of miles and instinctively come back to where they were born, and you can touch one of these fish, whether you can keep it or not, but you can touch that experience, that Mother Nature phenomena. It’s just indescribable. It’s just very hard to put an emotion on that feeling of knowing where that salmon has been and come back to.”

Other Idahoans featured in Salmon Stories include longtime Stanley homeowner Tom Stuart, fisheries biologist Bert Bowler, Tendoy Store owner Viola Anglin, fisherman Bill Boyer, Riggins tackle shop owner Rexann Zimmerman, former Stanley Mayor Hannah Stauts, Salmon fishing guide Chris Swersey, Riggins hotel owner Tom Anderson, Riggins restaurant owner Kim Olson and Barton.

It also includes Nez Perce tribal elder Elmer Crow Jr.

“Personally, I can’t picture life without salmon,” Crow concludes in one of the videos. “We have to have salmon; that’s all there is to it.”

Crow goes on to share the story of why salmon are so important to the Nez Perce people.

“This is only a sampling of the people across Idaho who revere Idaho salmon,” Stahl said. “These folks make clear that wild salmon are important for Idaho’s businesses, ecology and culture. Idaho is a diminished place without the transformative abundance these fish once brought, and they deserve our best efforts to bring them back.”