Wild Salmon: an Idaho legacy at risk of extinction
Idaho's wild salmon face one of the most arduous migrations of any species, traveling more than 900 miles and nearly 7,000 feet in elevation twice during their lifetimes.
Wild salmon hatch as one-inch fry in Idaho's fresh water before riding river currents down the Snake and Columbia rivers to grow to maturity in the Pacific Ocean. While spending one to four years in salt water, Idaho salmon can grow to 4 feet long and weigh more than 40 pounds. Near the end of their lives, they embark on a final 900-mile, 7,000-vertical-foot swim home.
The final living feat of a wild salmon is to spawn, and then die. Their carcasses provide precious fertilizer to Idaho's most treasured rivers and wilderness. Salmon bring crucial nutrients from the ocean to places like the Selway-Bitterroot and Frank Church-River of No Return wilderness areas, Redfish Lake and the Clearwater River. More than 137 species, from bugs to bears and raptors to trees, depend on salmon. Without wild salmon, Idaho's most special places will change forever.
On the brink of extinction
Unfortunately Idaho's wild salmon are rapidly headed toward extinction. In the past, salmon suffered through decades of habitat destruction, over-fishing, new hatchery construction and fluctuations in ocean conditions, but nothing has been so destructive to Idaho's wild salmon and steelhead as the completion of four dams on the lower Snake River between 1961 and 1975.
Since completion of these four high-cost, low-value dams in eastern Washington state, Snake River salmon populations have plummeted. In the 1950s, more than 1.5 million chinook salmon returned to Idaho. Today, about 20,000 wild fish make it home each year.
Restore wild salmon, Remove the lower Snake River dams
Fortunately, we have a window of opportunity to restore wild salmon to Idaho. Removing the four lower Snake River dams in eastern Washington will give salmon the fighting chance they need to bounce back, and it will also save taxpayers money. But there's not much time. Action is needed now to prevent salmon from going extinct.
You can be a part of the solution. Write a letter to your Congressional representative or become a member of IRU and help support our work to restore Idaho's wild salmon and steelhead.
Before the third annual Free the Snake Flotilla launched Saturday morning, Lewiston native and IRU member Devon Barker-Hicks gave an inspiring speech to encourage people to refocus on building, not tearing things down. “We built the dams,” she said. “We know how to build. Let’s use our collective knowledge to build. Let’s build beaches. Let’s build current. Let’s build shade. Let’s build fish runs.”
Fish Tales is the first entry of Streamline, a new ongoing podcast series that advocates for the preservation of Idaho’s wild rivers and inhabitants. Through interviews with local fisheries experts, hydrologists, public officials and others, Streamline tells the stories of Idaho’s amazing rivers.
Returns of wild and hatchery-raised salmon and steelhead were worse than predicted throughout 2017, and predictions were very poor to begin with. Here's the latest.
Steelhead are returning to Idaho in record-low numbers and prompting fisheries managers to curtail this fall’s fishing season. According to an Aug. 15 press release from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game about 400 steelhead had crossed Lower Granite Dam and entered Idaho by Monday, Aug. 14. The 10-year average for the date is about 6,000 steelhead.
Five Northwest political leaders yesterday introduced legislation seeking to block a federal court order that requires increased protections for Idaho’s endangered salmon. “These five members of Congress have written a death warrant for endangered salmon,” said IRU Executive Director Kevin Lewis. “This bill must be stopped dead in its tracks.”
Pre-recorded webinar features two of Northwest's most accomplished fisheries biologists talking about Idaho's wild salmon. Click through for this not-to-be-missed presentation.
A consortium of Idaho conservation groups this week called on the federal government to end barging of sockeye salmon, a practice they said is clearly bad for Idaho’s most imperiled and endangered salmon.
Three women from central Idaho are preparing to ride horses 1,000 miles from Astoria, Ore., at the mouth of the Columbia River on the Pacific Coast, to Stanley, Idaho, roughly following the same path that salmon follow up the Columbia, Snake and Salmon rivers.
IRU Executive Director Kevin Lewis and Save Our Wild Salmon Inland Northwest Director Sam Mace went toe-to-toe on Tuesday, March 28, with former Congressman Doc Hastings and Washington Policy Center environmental policy advocate Todd Myers.