Would a fish vote for a bureaucrat?

    Pat Neal    Commentary
    Peninsula Daily News

    Wednesday, October 31, 2007

         THIS IS A scary time of year, when all sorts of frightening characters walk streets knocking on doors, wanting something.

    No, I’m not talking about Halloween.

    There’s an election going on, and it’s the candidates who are on the march.

    I remember the first time I voted. It was 1972, when 18-year-olds were given the right to vote. We were supposed to change the world.

    We re-elected Nixon.

    The skeletons from Nixon’s closet haunt our country to this day.

    Earlier this month, Nixon’s head of the Environmental Protection Agency, William Ruckelshaus, came to town to blow his horn on his last seven years as head of our state’s Salmon Recovery Funding Board.

    He’s spent $300 million statewide, including millions and millions in Clallam and Jefferson counties.

    Old bureaucrats never die, they just form another agency.

    Ruckelshaus, now 75, has “embarked” on the Puget Sound Partnership, a new agency that wants to clean up Puget Sound by 2020.

    A hundred million here, a hundred million there, can really add up---leaving us old fisherman wondering why there are fewer and fewer salmon every year and how can they survive another 13 years of the Ruckelshaus Recovery Plan.

    We need look no further than our own Dungeness River to see just how well this plan works.

    The Dungeness steelhead, spring chinook, pink or humpback salmon, chum or cog salmon and the bull trout are all threatened, endangered or just about gone.

    These runs of magnificent fish once numbered in the hundreds and thousands.

    The salmon, once the birthright of every citizen in the Pacific Northwest, are being managed down the path to extinction.

    Wild king salmon, available at many fine restaurants in our area are being subjected to an industrial over-harvest throughout the extent of their range.

    Meanwhile, there are not enough spawning salmon returning to the rivers to sustain the runs that have thrived here since the last Ice Age.

    It is the quiet collapse of an eco-system. I was so disturbed by this ecological genocide that in 1998 I formed the Bull Trout Party and ran for Clallam County Commissioner. I did it for the children. My kids got so sick of listening to me gripe about the fishing, they told me to run for office and shut up.

    The Bull Trout Party platform stated the best way to deal with endangered species was to make them not endangered anymore. We could rebuild the eco-system and the salmon industry by using models from right here on the North Olympic Peninsula---the Makah tribal fish hatchery program on the Sooes River and the Olympic Peninsula Guides Association’s wild steelhead enhancement project on Snider Creek, a tributary of the Sol Duc River.

    The Dungeness River has two fish hatcheries that could be used to raise enough endangered salmon to make the bull trout happy.

    The bull trout was considered a worthless scavenger because it could swallow a baby salmon half its own length. Once the bull trout was declared endangered, it suddenly became worth millions of dollars.

    The salmon industry was replaced by the recovery industry.

    This is a step-down transformer for jobs, whereby unemployed fisherman and loggers are recycled into lower paid salmon recovery workers.

    The recovery goal is to remove houses and dikes and build logjams along the Dungeness River.

    Meanwhile, the Dungeness, after seven years of recovery, is still closed to fishing most of the year.

    It makes you wonder something in this election year.  Who would the fish vote for? That is, if there were any left.


    Pat Neal is a fishing guide and writer who lives in Sequim.
    His column appears in the Commentary page each Wednesday.
    Pat’s new book, “The Fisherman’s Prayer” is on sale at Jim’s Pharmacy, 424 East Second Street in Port Angeles, WA 98362. Also sold at the Forks Outfitter (formerly Thriftway) on US 101 in Forks Wa. 98331
    Cost $12.95 plus tax.
    Contact Pat Neal at 360-683-9867 and at PO Box 1806 in Sequim, WA 98382.
    Email  patnealwildlife@yahoo.com



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