Monday, May 20, 2019
Salmon, Steelhead Symposium Offers Steps for Recovery
This image was provided by Josh Udesen.
Thursday, March 7, 2019


It’s said that red kokanee that populated Redfish Lake were once so numerous that you could walk across them from one bank to another.

But dams constructed along the Columbia and Snake Rivers have decimated one of the world’s greatest salmon fisheries, according to the Sierra Club.

But change is afoot that could restore the fish in rivers that once teamed with ocean-running salmon and steelhead. And you can learn all about it in the two-day conference, “Saving Salmon, Regional Energy and Idaho’s Heritage.”

Idaho Conservation League is partnering with the Community Library to present the inaugural Wood River Valley conversation symposium on Wednesday and Thursday, March 13-14.

The free symposium will kick off with an evening presentation on Wednesday followed by an all-day workshop on Thursday.

“A couple of how members saw how amazing the community library is and how it’s teaching so many people through its programs and so we decided to partner with them because they’re a local organization that is doing really good work,” said Betsy Mizell, the Central Idaho director for the Idaho Conservation League’s Ketchum office.

The festival will look at the history of the salmon decline, serve up tall fish tales, and explore new opportunities for salmon and steelhead recovery.

“Over the course of two days we will examine how needs for a sustainable and affordable energy future are reshaping the conversations and building promising new prospects that may save these endangered and iconic fish that nourish the heart of Wild Idaho,” said Mizell.

Wednesday’s presentation will offer a snapshot of the history of salmon and steelhead in the area, along with a brief look at the biology of the fish and a hint of the next steps going forward.

Those subjects will get in-depth treatment on Thursday.

The ICL has worked on the salmon and steelhead issue for a long time but it’s making it more of a focal point, said Mizell.

“Different changes in energy work and a shift in the political climate have opened up some opportunities,” she said. “These fish could go extinct if nothing is done.”

Though the presentations are free, registration is requested. Registration for Thursday’s talks can be done at Wednesday’s presentation.

Here’s the schedule:


“New Hope for Salmon Recovery”

Russ Thurow and others will explore the abundance and decline of Idaho salmon and steelhead and how changing energy markets and needed change to infrastructure are creating new hope for recovery based on economics and politics.

Thurow is one of the region’s leading biologists on salmon and steelhead. He will be joined by Jim Norton, an energy expert and former fisheries program advisor for Ecotrust, and Rick Johnson, ICL’s executive director for 25 years.


9 a.m.—General welcome

9:15 a.m. “Supporting a People and Passion.” Dan Stone, a former Shoshone Bannock tribal council member and a licensed attorney, will remind the audience that salmon have long provided a spiritual anchor--something deeper and more important than today’s politics.

Pat Ford, who for many years ran the Save Our Wild Salmon Coalition, will discuss how salmon and steelhead have declined while discussing Endangered Species Act listings and litigation, lapses in leadership and progress for the future.

10:15 a.m. Storytelling

10:30 a.m. “Salmon and Steelhead Biology

Russ Thorow, a fisheries biologist with the U.S. Forest Service, will provide a comprehensive scientific grounding on the history and decline of Idaho-based salmon, including the impact of the Lower Snake River dams.

11:30 Lunch Break

12:30 Storytelling

12:45 p.m. “Saving the Pacific Northwest Power System Can Save Salmon”

Jim Norton will describe how the Pacific Northwest is supported by a unique electric power generation system with roots in the 1930s New Deal. Because of changing markets and economics, the urgency of climate change and the costs of salmon mitigation, the regional power system is at risk. But saving our energy system opens the door to saving Idaho’s salmon and steelhead, he argues.

1:45 p.m. Storytelling

2 p.m. “Salmon Stories”

Ed Cannady, recently retired backcountry ranger for the Sawtooth National Recreation Area, and Dagney Deutchman, a river guide doing salmon advocacy work for the ICL, will share personal stories of why salmon and steelhead recovery is important.

2:45 p.m. “Stitching it Together”

Rocky Barker, former environmental reporter for the Idaho Statesman, and Rick Johnson will reflect how the challenges of today are creating a new narrative and the political possibilities to get the job done.

3:30 p.m. ICL staff and panelists will discuss real steps to move forward.


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