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It’s not easy being an animal these days.

The BP oil spill has put animals living in already-fragile ecosystems at greater risk- animals like brown pelicans and other sea birds, sea turtles, and manatees and dolphins, according to the National Wildlife Federation. What’s worse is that BP’s legal liability for the spill is capped at $75 million under current laws, a figure that won’t even begin to cover the clean-up of damage that’s been caused, much less care for animals.

But beyond the oil spill, there’s another big news item this week that will affect animals significantly: the Obama administration is scheduled to release a federal salmon plan that will either signify the strengthening or the weakening of the Endangered Species Act.

Not surprisingly, the plan involves the administration making a decision between big energy interests and the integrity of species’ habitats. At issue: a choice to remove some dams and restrict future dam development (which would help endangered wild salmon populations recover and stabilize) or to give the green light to dam developers (which would increase the energy producing potential of the Columbia and Snake Rivers).

“Will Obama commit to species protection or to energy expansion?”

The decision is being viewed by both environmentalists and big energy interests as a test case for their respective causes: Will Obama commit to species protection or to energy expansion? The answer isn’t clear just yet, but the situation isn’t looking good for salmon: Obama’s administration merely dusted off a Bush-era plan and resuscitated it. Bush, if you’ll recall, wasn’t exactly animals’ best friend.

Regardless of the decision, the its implications are likely to be felt way beyond the western US where the wild salmon live. If big energy wins, they’ll know they’ve got the president in their pocket, and will likely keep pushing for their interests.

If you’d like to take action and encourage the Obama administration to “stand for salmon,” visit Save Our Salmon to learn more.

Community Connection:

Headed west? Want to cast a line? Read Tim Patterson’s “Fishing Montana: Lamar River Cutthroat Trout.”

Activism + Politics


About The Author

Julie Schwietert

Julie Schwietert Collazo is a writer, editor, researcher, and translator currently in New York, formerly of Mexico City and San Juan.

  • Jennifer Siler

    The wild salmon and steelhead of the Columbia-Snake Basin are truly a national treasure on the brink. I have seen first hand how important these fish are to the communities and cultures of the Northwest. These salmon and these communities desperately need leadership from President Obama to reverse his administration’s current course that pushes salmon closer to extinction.

    The science is clear, the economics are clear: the Obama administration should take a hard look now at removing the four lower Snake River dams, not some distant future. I am a 5th generation Oregonian and I hope I’m not the last generation to witness these magnificent creatures.

  • SillyFish

    It’s hard to believe we’re even having this debate. 4 dams versus a one-of-a-kind salmon that is found no where else on earth and provides nutrients and food to the whole ecosystem? I’m with Jenny above; let’s remove those 4 dams and get on with being responsible humans.

    We all are watching in the Gulf what ignoring the science and law means to our environment and our regional economics. These salmon, like the Gulf’s fishing, mean serious business and family-wage jobs up and down the Pacific Coast. Let’s hope the Obama team doesn’t make yet ANOTHER huge blunder on Snake River salmon.

  • nonydog

    The Obama team was never thought to be all about the environment. Even during the campaign, we knew it wasn’t a top issue. Yet it has been, in general, abysmal. As someone who values both the wonder of intact rivers and the jobs that salmon create, someone who knows that salmon support 150 other species by returning to their native streams and leaving their bodies, someone who cannot imagine why we are still tethered to this obsolete mid-20th-century destructive technology, I sure hope that this time, Obama’s people show a little spine and do the right thing.

  • LoneStar

    I visited some of the areas in central Idaho about 5 years ago and could not believe it when I was told that salmon sometimes made it all the way up there from the ocean – it’s probably 1000 miles. Then I thought I had read some stories in the last few years suggesting that some of these fish were actually doing better, so it’s very disturbing to hear that Obama is about to turn back the clock on them. I know I would travel back to Redfish Lake in a heartbeat to see some of those salmon return, but it sounds like the feds are determined not to let that happen. Too bad for the fish and too bad for the rest of us.

  • Liz Hamilton

    As rivers in the lower elevations slowly warm due to climate change, the cold, high mountain streams such as those coming out of Idaho become salmon’s sanctuary and our insurance policy that we can protect these amazing fish from the onslaught of global climate change. The current Administration has so far chosen to continue the ‘anything but the dams’ approach to salmon recovery, putting our environment, economy and heritage in peril. The false choice between salmon and power is thwarting real efforts to restore salmon. It is a bitter pill when citizens have to sue the government to obey their own laws. If these salmon can travel 600 miles from the ocean to the tops of mountains to spawn and die for the next generation to succeed, what small things can we do to ensure they do not fail? We are going to have to lead (or push) our “Leaders” here and demand that they do the right thing.

  • Riverside98

    Thanks for the great post, Julie and Matador. I thought folks might also be interested in this link to a new project just launched by National Geographic called the Global Action Atlas:

    The fight to save Snake River salmon is one of about 60 projects being featured from all over the world. Swing on by and check it out!

    • Julie Schwietert

      Thanks for providing this information!

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