U.S. Government Sets New Course on Lower Snake River, Toward ‘Right Side of History’

National Wildlife Federation Applauds Administration's Commitment to Restore Snake River Salmon, Tribes’ Recovery Plan

SEATTLE, Wash. – Standing by the leadership of the Nez Perce, Yakama, Warm Springs, and Umatilla Tribes and after three decades of litigation, the National Wildlife Federation joins a coalition of fishing, conservation and energy groups in a significant step forward in the long-standing legal battle to restore and conserve Snake River salmon and steelhead runs. The joint agreement with the Biden administration, the States of Oregon and Washington and Nez Perce, Yakama, Warm Springs, and Umatilla Tribes offers a multi-year pause in Snake River litigation to allow for the implementation of federal commitments that aim to advance the recovery of salmon, steelhead and other native fish populations throughout the broader Columbia River Basin. 

“Thanks to the leadership of Northwest Tribes, we have specific agreed upon actions that move the Northwest region one step closer to saving Columbia River salmon and steelhead runs,” said Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. “The National Wildlife Federation is grateful that the Biden Administration has declared that salmon recovery is a government-wide priority and is willing to seize the solutions within our grasp to move us toward a future where abundant salmon populations and wildlife-responsible clean energy can coexist.”

The Biden administration is supporting a bold new blueprint with considerable federal funding and a Memorandum of Understanding to continue working together on next steps. The federal commitments which were filed with the court today respond to and support the Columbia Basin Restoration Initiative, developed by the four Lower Columbia River Treaty Tribes and the states of Oregon and Washington and were unveiled publicly today.

“We have spent nearly $26 billion attempting to recover Idaho’s salmon and steelhead — the most expensive species-recovery effort in history — to no avail. Simply put, no recovery efforts have or will prevail while the lower Snake River dams continue to be the largest contributor of  human-caused fish mortality,” said Brian Brooks, executive director of the Idaho Wildlife Federation. “That is why it is imperative to begin replacing the remaining  services the  lower Snake River dams provide so we may have a future with fish. Idahoans are deeply grateful to the Biden Administration for their work with Tribes and partners to put the Northwest on the right path."

The Columbia Basin Restoration Initiative provides a comprehensive roadmap to rebuild imperiled fish populations, honor Tribal treaty rights, and restore healthy ecosystems while supporting a robust Pacific Northwest economy. It explicitly outlines a plan to restore and conserve salmon runs within two fish generations, or approximately eight years and commits the federal government to partnering with the Tribes and States to plan and begin to implement a diverse range of solutions for replacing the energy, transportation, and agricultural services currently provided by the four Lower Snake River dams.

Both the Columbia Basin Restoration Initiative and the U.S. government commitments build on the report and recommendations from a  joint federal-state process by Washington Governor Jay Inslee and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) as well as funding allocated by the Washington Legislature last year to plan to replace and modernize transportation, irrigation and energy needs.

A timeline of the battle to recover Snake River salmon can be found here



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