Record salmon runs in NW a positive sign

Dec 10 2002 12:00AM

By the Editorial Board of the Union-Bulletin

While it may be too early to declare victory, it seems salmon recovery efforts are going in the right direction.
Good news on the salmon front. Fall chinook in the Columbia River are returning past Bonneville Dam in record numbers this year.

And it's not the first hint of success. Record salmon runs have been reported throughout the Pacific Northwest the past few years.

Federal officials are happy. They pin the high returns on two decades of salmon recovery efforts.

``This year's outstanding return of adult fish is a good indication that the investment we're making in the Columbia River and tributaries is paying off for salmon,'' said Steve Wright, Bonneville Power Administration administrator. BPA has been putting about $225 million a year into salmon recovery.

Yet, there are some - including those who have been screaming for programs to save salmon - who say it's too early to celebrate success. Why?

Well, some fear that if victory, even a small one, is declared then the resolve - and the cash - to restore salmon runs will disappear. Others complain the numbers are skewed because hatchery salmon, not ``wild salmon,'' are the ones boosting the record runs.

It's all nonsense. Salmon are salmon. And if taxpayers don't see a payoff for the billions of dollars they've already poured into salmon recovery there will be - and justifiably so - an outcry to stop wasting money.

Nobody is saying that federal programs are the sole reason for record salmon runs. It could be, as some claim, that favorable weather conditions, ocean productivity and other unknown factors played a major role in the influx of salmon.

But even if federal officials are exaggerating the success of salmon recovery programs, which may be the case, it's clear by any measure that the prognosis for the long-term survival of salmon has improved.

It's progress. Let's build on it, not tear it down.


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