We talk a lot about “sustainable development” in the conservation arena. The notion that human progress need not impair or impede the natural order of our rivers is perhaps one of more attractive ideals within the growth and development fields. And, make no mistake, we have the ability to protect our watersheds while we continue to make life better for everyone.
But, for a variety of reasons, we don’t often achieve this ideal. Protecting rivers can be expensive and, frankly, inconvenient. Sometimes, in the name of progress, we allow rivers and their fish to be impacted by progress, and we lose our riparian resources, sometimes forever.
The film above from the Arctic Silver team in Norway is a reminder that, even when progress does have a negative impact on fish, steps can be taken to repair and rejuvenate our waters. The Beiarn River is on the mend again, thanks to an effort remove or improve unnecessary fish barriers. Atlantic salmon are coming back to the river and spawning naturally, a joyous outcome based on real efforts to achieve “sustainable development.”
We can point to our own Penobscot River in Maine where century-old dams blocked fish passage to 1,000 miles of spawning and rearing habitat for salmon, striped bass, sturgeon, herring and shad. It’s a retroactive effort at sustainable living that recognizes the life of a river. The same could be said for the Elwha River in Washington where salmon and steelhead are recolonizing spawning habitat after a dam removal.
We’re living in an exciting time, when fisheries experts and communities are seeing the benefits of a true, living rivers. Let’s hope this time continues.
— Chris Hunt