U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson addresses the crowd at an Andrus Center conference in Boise. Photo by Chris Wood.

This week in Boise, the Andrus Center for Public Policy is presenting an important conference: “Energy, Salmon, Agriculture, and Community: Can We Come Together?”

TU President and CEO Chris Wood is there, and he’ll speak as part of a panel discussion at the event—you’ll read more on this conference from Chris once the event concludes, I’m sure.

But one thing is certain. The money spent by taxpayers to recover Columbia and Snake River salmon and steelhead hasn’t generated the results we’d all hoped for. As U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson of Idaho told the crowd gathered at the conference today, “You have got to ask yourself, after spending $16 billion on salmon recovery over the last how many years, is it working?”

Of course it’s not working. As an Idaho angler, I watch with dread every year as predictions for salmon and steelhead returns seem to continually dwindle (this year’s runs are predicted be almost as dismal as last year’s runs, which were incredibly disappointing).

Something’s got to give. Or we’ll lose our salmon and steelhead altogether. There are a lot of moving parts to this issue, from power generation to tribal fishing rights to recreational access to fish that swim, in some instances, more than 800 miles from the Pacific to spawn in Idaho’s pristine backcountry. It’s always been a tricky issue. But it’s never been more pressing.

All the right folks are gathered in Boise this week, hopefully to offer some hope for the future. Stay tuned. Our own Chris Wood will offer his thoughts on the topic in the days ahead.