11/16/1999 -- -- Trout Unlimited, the nation's leading coldwater fisheries conservation organization, remains hopeful that the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) will recognize that bypassing the four Lower Snake River dams is the best option available for recovering and avoiding extinction of the river's salmon and steelhead. NMFS today released a summary of its "4H Paper," which will serve as a guide to future federal actions toward recovery of Endangered Species Act-listed salmon, trout and other aquatic species.
The "Working Paper" released today outlines the different options NMFS is considering for fish recovery through combinations of strategies in the four "Hs" that have played a hand in the decline of the region's fisheries - hydropower, habitat, hatcheries and harvest. The paper confirms a Trout Unlimited study released earlier this year that found the extinction of Snake River spring and summer chinook salmon would likely occur early next century unless significant actions are taken soon.
"Species extinction is still what this boils down to," said Jeff Curtis of Trout Unlimited. "We're pleased that the 4H paper seems to recognize that. Even though their science is largely out of step with most other scpantists in the region regarding the positive impacts of dam bypass, NMFS still concludes that bypass is the best way to avoid extinction of all at-risk stocks."
While it provides few clues to the specific strategies NMFS plans to employ, the 4H Working Paper strongly implies an increased focus on federal enforcement on private lands and further limitations on tribal, commercial and recreational fishing.
"The federal hammer is going to fall somewhere," said Curtis. "We believe that having it fall directly on the four Lower Snake River dams makes the most scientific and economic sense for the region to save these fish. But this document seems to be moving it back over the heads of the tribes and private landowners of the Pacific Northwest."
Additional federal enforcement of fish-recovery measures on private landowners would have direct and significant impacts on agriculture, timber, grazing and water use. Conversely, a report released earlier this month by Trout Unlimited analyzed and quantified the economic impacts of bypassing the four Lower Snake dams, and showed that bypass would actually provide widespread opportunities to make the economies of the region better.