FILE — The Little Goose Dam along the Snake River near Riparia, Wash., is seen Feb. 2. A proposal to breach the four lower Snake River dams, including the Little Goose Dam, is a point of discussion among many different entities, including environmental groups, Native American tribes, farmers and port officials.
Idaho Fish and Game commissioners received comments on two of the state’s most controversial topics — salmon and dams, and wolves and elk — at a public comment hearing in Lewiston on Monday.
Two retired Idaho Department of Fish and Game fisheries biologists and one former Fish and Game commissioner implored current commissioners to be more active in the regional efforts to recover Snake River salmon and steelhead.
Former biologists Richard Scully, of Lewiston, and Dave Cannamela, of Boise, referred to the commission’s 1998 policy statement that a free-flowing lower Snake River is the best option for the state’s salmon and steelhead. The statement remains active and both said scientific data collected over the past 20 years has strengthened the case for breaching the four lower Snake River Dams.
“Idaho citizens expect the commission to take a strong stand. They want to hear from the commission and the department on what needs to be done to recover our salmon and steelhead,” said Scully. “Not only are Idaho’s salmon and steelhead natural treasures to be preserved, protected and perpetuated but they provide enormous social, economic and ecological benefits. Please take a strong stand to protect these fish.”
Cannamela said when he worked for the department, he was told not to mention the policy statement in public presentations because it might cause future commissions to reverse it and “render it useless.”
“Anyone else here having trouble with that logic?” he asked.
He advocated backing Rep. Mike Simpson’s $33.5 billion concept of dam removal combined with compensation for affected communities and industries.
“This plan will work because it meets the biological needs of the fish and the social, economic and cultural needs of the people,” he said.
Keith Carlson, a former commissioner who helped craft and pass the 1998 policy statement supporting a free flowing lower Snake River, asked the commission and the department to educate the public on the need’s of the state’s salmon and steelhead.
“The 1938 Citizen’s Initiative that created the commission and the department directed that Idaho Fish and Game’s mission is to protect, preserve, perpetuate and manage Idaho’s wildlife resources. It’s time to do this for the fish,” he said.
Justin Webb, executive director of the Foundation for Wildlife Management, told commissioners a program that incentivizes wolf trappers and hunters to concentrate their efforts in areas where wolves have preyed on livestock or where elk are not meeting management objectives, appears to be working.
The foundation receives grant funding from the department and reimburses wolf hunters and trappers for their expenses. It pays as much as $2,500 per wolf in areas the animals have chronically preyed on livestock and as much as $2,000 in hunting units where elk are struggling. The group offers as much as $1,000 in reimbursement for wolves taken in Unit 1 of the Panhandle Region and as much as $500 in the rest of the state.
Webb said 89 percent of the money the foundation paid to hunters and trappers from July 1 to the end of October has been associated with wolves taken in areas of chronic livestock depredation or areas where elk are below the department’s management objectives.
“We are seeing a substantial increase in sportsmen effort within the increased reimbursement zones,” he said.
The commission will hold a meeting starting at 8 a.m. today at the Fish and Game office in Lewiston. Commissioners are scheduled to consider adopting a rule package for fishing seasons that will be in place for the next three years. The package includes significant changes to the steelhead fishing season structure on the Clearwater River.
The meeting will be held in person and also streamed online at idfg.idaho.gov/ZJA. The meeting ID is 936 8235 8350, and the password is (253) 215-8782. A full agenda is available at bit.ly/2ZQ88vu.