Friday, June 23, 2006

Lifeline for the sockeye


The big red namesake salmon of Idaho's popular Redfish Lake, the sockeye, is alive today largely because of the persistence of devoted conservationists who refuse to allow others in the human species to kill the fish.

Now the Idaho sockeye's tenuous hold on life is hanging in the balance again and is totally reliant on more generosity from human protectors.

The Northwest Power and Conservation Council has recommended another $2.7 million to continue breeding stocks of sockeye at Idaho's Eagle Hatchery and Oregon's Oxbow Hatchery, despite recommendations of another panel that ruled the sockeye should be allowed to die off as a species.

The tragedy in that callous panel's view is that the sockeye had done nothing with its diminishing population. Both the sockeye and the chinook salmon are victims of man-made torment: dams on the lower Snake River and clumsy efforts to create artificial passage for salmon between the ocean and their spawning grounds, an effort that merely adds to the death toll.

In this age of imposing technology over the environment, humankind is paying an awful price. Climate change is but one. Death of rare species is another.

And still the lesson hasn't dawned on environmental policy makers in Washington. They press on with rules that diminish life of the species and poison the environment to enhance industrial dominance over nature.

A better case can be made for removing a few of the dams.

Rather than regard rescue of the Idaho sockeye as futile, rescue should be a sign that species still are highly valued among thoughtful Americans who understand nature's critical role in a civilized world.




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