Feedback To Editor’s Notebook: ‘A Future Without Wild Salmon Is A Future Without Salmon’

–RE: EDITOR’S NOTEBOOK: As We End The Year, Big Decisions For Columbia River Basin Salmon Recovery Dangle On Hold

— From Helen Neville, Ph.D., Senior Scientist, Trout Unlimited

Thank you for your concise summary of a busy year in the region’s long-running efforts to recover salmon and steelhead in the Columbia Basin.  I share your view that Congressman Simpson did us a great service by coming forth with a bold proposal to remove the lower Snake River dams and invest in alternative ways of providing the dams’ benefits, and I am grateful for his leadership.

As you stated, the region is at a critical juncture where there is an urgent need for big actions, including removing the lower Snake River dams, and it remains to be seen whether the political leadership exists to rise to the challenge.  I’m hopeful that the process Senator Murray and Governor Inslee have launched will be the breakthrough the region desperately needs.

You clearly and accurately observed that if one supports keeping the lower Snake River dams then one must admit that they are abandoning wild salmon and steelhead recovery in the Snake River Basin.  But your readers may be misled by the statement that such an admission means “we’ll need to roll with hatchery fish and dams, not wild fish.”

There is no future for salmon with just hatchery fish.  First, hatcheries require wild fish for broodstock; without a constant infusion of wild genes hatchery populations steadily weaken.  Second, only wild fish possess the genetic and life-history diversity — and spatial distribution — that confer the resilience needed to withstand the impacts of climate change.

To put it succinctly: A future without wild salmon is ultimately a future without salmon.

Helen Neville, Ph.D.,

Senior Scientist

Trout Unlimited

[email protected]

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. Learn more at

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