Friday, October 20, 2006

Students march to save sockeye

Valley kids hope actions stir ripple effect

Express Staff Writer

Photos by Scott Runkel

Christopher Nalen, 12, wants to see solar panels, windmills and conservation in his home state of Idaho. He told approximately 150 people his dreams on Tuesday evening at a March for Sockeye from Boise City Hall to the Idaho Capitol a few blocks away. Nalen was one of several Idaho students to speak and one of 14 students from The Community School in Sun Valley to attend the rally. The local seventh- and eighth-graders participated in the rally with science teacher Scott Runkel.

Nalen also dreams of the day when the four lower Salmon River dams are removed, allowing the fish to return freely to Idaho's rivers and lakes.

"You may say it would cost a lot of money but once the salmon are restored we could stop using money for the hatcheries, barges, fish ladders, biologists, removable spillway weirs and other ways to move the salmon over the dams. $8 billion has been spent to do this and all it has saved is three fish," he said in his speech. "As the philosopher Goethe said, 'Knowing is not enough; we must apply.' We know that taking out the dams will save the salmon, now we must apply. We must move the dams."

The group joined other students, parents and children, and Idaho Rivers United members at City Hall at 5:30 p.m. The Community School kids bore their homemade "Honk if you love salmon" signs and yelled chants such as the one related by 12-year-old Colin Waycott: "Sockeye yes. Extinction, no. Time to let our leaders know."

Other speakers included Salmon Advocate Reed Burkholder, and Amanda Peacher, the outreach coordinator for Idaho Rivers United, who especially impressed the students with her passion and experience with the Forest Service in Stanley.

"Dams have been removed in the past," said Kyla Jarrett, 13. "There are other types of energy she mentioned."

Once at the Capitol, Josie Bunce, 13, delivered letters into a box addressed to Gov. Risch from each of the students and others at The Community School.

The form letter can be found on the Wild Salmon Web site. It reads in part:

"Wild salmon are a vital natural resource, providing jobs and economic opportunities for many communities. Unfortunately, this national treasure is threatened with extinction.

The four lower Snake River dams continue to be the primary cause of declining salmon and steelhead populations. I believe American taxpayers and the people who depend on healthy salmon runs deserve a real recovery plan. That's why I encourage you to support the bi-partisan Salmon Planning Act (HR 1615)."

Morgan Atkinson, 13, also spoke on the Capitol steps. "I talked about why salmon were important to our eco-system," she said. "It'd be amazing to see Redfish Lake alive with sockeye."

After hearing other speakers, "I came away knowing there were other people out there who cared too," India Emerick, 13, said.

Runkel told the kids that it wasn't how many people showed up on Tuesday evening, "It's the fact that you did and that there's this ripple effect that can happen."

"We want Redfish Lake, not deadfish lake," added Camille Bourett, 13. "We're the next generation. We need to care."

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