CORVALLIS, Ore. – A new book of essays from more than 30 salmon scientists, policy analysts and wild salmon advocates suggesting ways to save runs of wild salmon has been published by the American Fisheries Society – and some of the prescriptions are certain to raise a few eyebrows.
The book is an outgrowth of the provocative three-year Salmon 2100 Project, a joint effort between Oregon State University and the Environmental Protection Agency laboratory in Corvallis, Ore.
The no-holds-barred project drew a variety of bold ideas, many of which would be politically or socially unacceptable. Even the authors admit that. But most of the participants say something drastic is needed to save wild salmon because of population increase, habitat loss, climate change and other factors.
“Salmon recovery as currently practiced suffers from a lack of imagination,” write Larry Bailey and Michelle Boshard, of Rural Resource Associates in Tonasket, Wash., in their essay called ‘Follow the Money.’ “Rural landowners and communities cannot be expected to maintain the environmental and cultural heritage of future salmon runs for everyone at their own expense. The best habitat remaining is in the poorest rural areas and surrounds people who can least afford the burden.”
Their solution? Take the same money spent by state and federal agencies on salmon recovery and funnel it into locally controlled efforts that would spend more on salmon and less on bureaucracy.
This is just one of many solutions for saving wild salmon offered by the participants of the Salmon 2100 project. Their conclusions were both grim and hopeful, according to the project leaders. The participants were unanimous in their opinions that present efforts and policies to preserve wild salmon runs would fail. Yet they all felt that wild salmon could be saved – with the right prescriptions.
“Some of the policy options are radical and surely would be difficult to implement – especially those requiring changes in the Endangered Species Act,” said Robert T. Lackey, a senior fisheries biologist with EPA and one of the three project leaders. “But it is important to remember that there are policy options that have a good chance of restoring wild salmon runs to significant, sustainable levels through 2100 and beyond.”
OSU sociologists Denise Lach and Sally Duncan helped lead the project with Lackey, who also is a courtesy professor in OSU’s Department of Fisheries and Wildlife.
A proposal by James Buchal, a Portland attorney, suggests curtailing fishing and putting more resources into hatchery production to boost the number of salmon, then providing incentives for agencies and others to meet sustainability goals. Too much money is spent perpetuating the “salmon bureaucracy,” he argues, which also holds hostage companies generating hydroelectric power.
John H. Michael, Jr., a fisheries biologist from Olympia, Wash., represents a group of participants advocating a “triage” approach, where watersheds are managed for a specific purpose – not conflicting goals of sustainable fish, energy and agriculture.
“In specific areas where the emphasis is electrical generation, irrigation, domestic water supply and high-density human habitation, the result is the functional extinction of some fish stocks,” he writes. “Specific populations will have to be allowed to become extinct in order to ensure that sufficient money, effort and political will is applied to stocks that have a better chance at long-term survival.”
One of the essays, by James T. Martin, former fisheries chief with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and salmon adviser to then-Gov. John Kitzhaber, suggests that current efforts are spread too thin and that salmon restoration should focus more on higher-elevation streams. In short, he says we should write off those rivers and creeks where the chances of success are impossibly high and focus society’s efforts on those waterways where salmon have at least a chance to survive through 2100.
“In some cases,” Martin writes, “…dams will have to be removed or significantly modified to facilitate juvenile downstream migration. In other cases, it may be feasible and preferable to construct small-head fish-sorting dams in the upper ends of reservoirs of the larger hydro facilities…The captured fish can then be trucked or piped around the reservoir and dam to allow migration downstream to the ocean or lower river rearing habitat.”
Ernest Brannon, a professor emeritus from the University of Idaho, suggests the only practical, cost-effective answer to saving salmon is engineering – specifically, creating artificial streams to replace lost habitat.
“An engineered stream is a concept of creating habitat for salmon and steelhead that replaces lost or degraded habitat resulting from economic development of western North America,” Brannon writes. “Engineered habitat that mimics natural streams, with the additional provisions of controlled flow and nutrient enrichment, can increase production efficiency several fold over unmanaged habitat.”
Jack E. Williams, a Southern Oregon University researcher and member of Trout Unlimited, and Edwin P. Pister, retired official with the California Department of Fish and Game, say the key to saving wild salmon runs lies within each individual. Technology advances and policy decisions are secondary to reducing our growing “ecological footprint” that demands water, energy and other natural resources whose depletion directly or indirectly affects salmon survival.
“Only when the great majority of the populace becomes ecologically literate…can we expect to receive the required political support necessary to affect a behavioral turnaround,” they write. “Brian Czech, in his landmark book, ‘Shoveling Fuel for a Runaway Train,’ envisions a future where more and more people will understand the folly of perpetual economic growth and will begin to see the conspicuous consumer as a bad citizen.
“This new set of values needs to come sooner than later for wild salmon and their habitats.”
The prescriptions offered by the authors represent their personal views and not those of the institutions and agencies for which they work, the project leaders noted. And though the ideas are fascinating, OSU’s Lach said, they aren’t endorsing any of them.
“We don’t have a dog in this fight,” she said. “The goal of the Salmon 2100 Project was to elicit innovative thinking from people involved with salmon across a wide spectrum. Our personal views don’t enter into it. It is ultimately up to the public to decide on what tradeoffs they are willing to consider that would help save wild salmon.”
Copies of the Salmon 2100 book are available from the American Fisheries Society. Information is available at: http://www.fisheries.org/html/publications/catbooks/x55050C.shtml