By John Wells, IRU Board President
Since our founding in 1990 IRU has had many successes in our mission to protect and restore the rivers of Idaho. In just 2016 we saw a big win in court for Idaho's endangered salmon. We stopped a new dam on the Bear River of southeast Idaho and continued our work to protect the Wild and Scenic rivers of the Clearwater River basin. In many ways and very often in spite of Washington administrations not overtly friendly to the environment, steady progress has been made over the last 26 years.
Idaho Rivers United has been reluctant to take a position on policy positions unfolding in Washington, D.C., but we can no longer bite our tongue. Dozens of policy positions are taking shape that will put clean air, clean water, wild fish and public lands in jeopardy, and we need to act now. We tragically appear to be on the brink of a 180-degree turn toward the past with an administration that does not value the environment and denies basic scientific evidence, an administration creating its own “alternative facts” on a daily basis.
The nomination of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to lead the Environment Protection Agency is a blatant affront to some of our nation’s most basic tenets: American citizens have a fundamental right to clean water and clean air, and IRU will work tirelessly to enforce those rights. You can help by keeping IRU’s mission going strong.
During his tenure in Oklahoma, Pruitt sued the EPA 14 times for anti-pollution regulations he said were “inconsistent with its constitutional and statutory authority.” During confirmation hearings last week, Pruitt was unable to name a single EPA regulation he supports. Not one.
This should be chilling for everyone, but particularly for those old enough to remember the 1950s and 1960s when many U.S. rivers were muck and our air was thick with acidic haze.
Also last week U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, introduced legislation that would direct the interior secretary to immediately sell 3.3 million acres maintained by the Bureau of Land Management. Wild, clean rivers that are filled with fish are a direct result of America’s public land holdings, including magnificent Idaho rivers like the Owyhee, Bruneau and lower Salmon, all three of which would suffer if BLM lands are privatized. We won’t stand by and let this happen. Join us now to help us prepare to defend Idaho’s fundamental values and rich heritage of public land.
Meanwhile, the president himself has repeatedly declared that climate change is a hoax. Within an hour of his Jan. 20 inauguration the White House’s web page on climate change vanished. “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive,” Trump tweeted in 2012. This, while thousands of salmon and steelhead bound for Idaho to spawn died in the lethally hot pools held back by dams on the Columbia and Snake Rivers in the record hot summer of 2015.
We appreciate that we are not the first conservation group to bring these concerns to your attention. And we appreciate that we are not the first to use the current anti-environment climate to appeal for money. In fact we’re probably not even the first Idaho-based group. However, we are the only environmental organization devoted 24/7 solely to protecting and restoring the rivers of Idaho, and Idahoans deserve clean water and reliable environmental protections.
Unfortunately we believe it’s just a matter of time until the policies currently being promulgated by this administration begin to threaten Idaho rivers and wild fish. If we are going to continue to be in a position to defend the rivers and fish of Idaho against these new threats we need your help in the form of dollars. In this brave new world of “alternative facts” I submit to you that it is fact that the clean rivers and wild fish of Idaho nourish our souls and sustain us in ways that nothing else can. Let’s not put our Idaho rivers, public lands, and wildlife in jeopardy. Take Action now and support IRU!
The banner photo on this page shows the confluence of the Middle Fork of the Salmon and Salmon rivers. It was taken by Jerry Myers during winter 2017.