By Betsy Emery, Advocacy and Campaign Manager
May 3, 2021
L ast week, Representative Blumenauer (D-Ore.) joined Representative Simpson (R-Idaho) in calling for strategic investments to ensure the Pacific Northwest’s salmon and steelhead avoid extinction and modernize regional energy and transportation infrastructure in an effort to revitalize rural economies and communities.
Rep. Simpson’s Columbia Basin Salmon and Energy Proposal calls for $33.5 billion to invest in river-dependent communities and sectors while offsetting the need for the four lower Snake River dams. By more than doubling adult salmon returns to the Basin, removing these dams would protect the Northwest’s fishing heritage, generate an estimated 10,000 jobs, enhance Oregon’s $1.5 billion fishing economy, and ensure future Oregonians are able to experience the joy of catching salmon and steelhead.
Over the past forty years, local, state, and regional leaders have tried to recover salmon through habitat restoration, collaboration, and other strategies to no avail. Taxpayers have spent an excess of $17 billion trying to avoid extinction, and unfortunately, none of the Basin’s salmon runs have recovered from the risk. Instead, salmon and steelhead returns continue to decline and fishing seasons get shorter year after year.
Rep. Blumenauer commented on the lack of meaningful recovery in his statement, saying "It’s clear that the status quo is not working. It is an existential threat to iconic fish species, to indigenous ways of life, and to sustainability and prosperity throughout the region. We have an opportunity to end this cycle of conflict, degradation, and regional uncertainty.”
Put simply, our salmon and communities do not have any more time to wait. Biologists fear that many Columbia Basin salmon runs are only one catastrophic event away from extinction. Just last week, the Nez Perce Tribe reported that "42% of Snake River spring Chinook and 19% of steelhead have reached the quasi-extinction threshold...50 or fewer spawners [have] return[ed] to natal streams for four consecutive years."
While so many political initiatives sit in gridlock, Rep. Blumenauer, one of the most progressive members of Congress, has partnered with Rep. Simpson, one of the more conservative members. Their commitment to save salmon and bring economic resilience to Oregon and the Northwest is a welcome departure from the usual party politics and partisanship that have created ongoing economic and environmental insecurity for decades.
Conservation, watershed health, and species recovery are bipartisan values. At the end of the day, we all want healthy rivers filled with abundant salmon. With endorsement from representatives on both sides of the aisle, our once-in-a-generation opportunity to launch the largest river restoration and salmon recovery initiative in history is gaining political momentum.
Join us in calling on other Northwest delegates to seize on this historic opportunity. Biden’s Infrastructure and Jobs package provides a platform to build a better future for the Pacific Northwest: one with abundant salmon and fishing opportunities. We need them to step forward and engage in meaningful conversations to shape this proposal into legislation.
The window for recovery is rapidly shrinking. If not now, then when?