Monday August 22, 2022

Idaho State Journal

Federal fisheries managers found that wild salmon and steelhead from the Snake and Columbia rivers are threatened by climate change like never before and that urgent action is required to save the fish.

But officials at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration opted to leave their status under the Endangered Species Act unchanged, surprising some who thought Snake River spring chinook might be reclassified from threatened to endangered. They also did not list breaching the lower Snake River dams as one of the recommended actions to help the fish. That is a departure from a draft report the agency released in July saying the dams need to come out.

The difference relates to the goal of the two disparate documents. In July, the agency released a draft report saying the dams should be breached, along with other aggressive actions, if the region wants to restore wild fish to healthy and harvestable levels.

The status reviews of four species that return to the Snake River and three to the mid and upper Columbia River released Thursday look at less lofty goals — keeping the fish from going extinct and restoring them to the point ESA protection is not needed. For example, the delisting criteria calls for a return of about 33,500 wild spring and summer chinook to their spawning grounds. The healthy and harvestable level, set by the NOAA convened Columbia River Partnership Task Force, is about 98,000 wild spring and summer chinook returning to the Snake River.

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