White House directs agencies to prioritize wild salmon recovery in Columbia River Basin 

Areal view of damn

TU: Removal of dams on the Snake River is key to recovering wild fish runs 


ARLINGTON, Va.—The White House is recognizing treaty obligations to the sovereign nations of the Pacific Northwest and directing federal agencies to prioritize the recovery of wild salmon, steelhead and other native fish in the Columbia River Basin, and ordering a broad assessment of steps the administration can take to restore these fisheries. 

“We welcome this order to focus the attentions of the federal government on reversing the ongoing decline of wild salmon and steelhead in the Columbia River Basin,” said Chris Wood, president and CEO of Trout Unlimited. “But this is a half-step. NOAA Fisheries has already told us that the best way to recover Snake River salmon and steelhead is by removing the four lower Snake River dams to reopen fish passage to the very best coldwater habitat for salmon and steelhead in the lower 48.” 

Fisheries scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration concluded last year that “For Snake River stocks, the centerpiece action [for recovery] is restoring the lower Snake River via dam breaching.”  The agency said breaching the dams would be transformative and called for urgent action to prevent the loss of wild salmon and steelhead in the Columbia and Snake River basins.  

“We are past the time for half-measures. It is long past time for America to honor its obligations to the tribal people who relied on these fish for millennia for sustenance, not to mention other communities across the Pacific Northwest.” Wood added. “The science is clear. The question is whether we have the political will to recover a species that defines the Pacific Northwest—to do otherwise would be a stain on our great nation.”

Today’s Presidential Memorandum dedicates the Biden administration to work with Congress, states, tribes, and other stakeholders on “effective, creative, and durable solutions to restore wild fish populations while delivering affordable and reliable clean energy, supporting the agricultural economy, and meeting the many resilience needs of the region.” 

The memorandum sets 120- and 220-day deadlines for the completion of reviews to assess steps and funding needs to set a course for salmon recovery in the basin. 

Learn more about TU’s work on the Snake at www.tu.org/lowersnake.  


Trout Unlimited is the nation’s oldest and largest coldwater fisheries conservation organization dedicated to caring for and recovering America’s rivers and streams so our children can experience the joy of wild and native trout and salmon. Across the country, TU brings to bear local, regional and national grassroots organizing, durable partnerships, science-backed policy muscle, and legal firepower on behalf of trout and salmon fisheries, healthy waters and vibrant communities.