Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Nature’s marvel

Another inexplicable and humbling mystery of nature is unfolding this year as the noble and gallantly hardy sockeye salmon begin returning to Idaho in numbers not seen in recent years.

The public has a chance to see these beautiful icons of Idaho at the Sawtooth Hatchery six miles south of Stanley on State Highway 75 where the Idaho Department of Fish and Game empties traps that briefly hold the migrating fish.

In the early 20th century, tens of thousands of the large red sockeye spawned in their namesake Redfish Lake. Then over time, the sockeye began vanishing and became an endangered species, with less than a handful returning each year.

Any return is remarkable given the do-or-die feat of returning 900 miles from the Pacific Ocean through eight dams on the Snake and Columbia rivers before reaching waters of the Sawtooth Valley.

For families made blasé by the exotic electronic technologies of daily life, visiting long enough to see the colorful sockeye and pondering its extraordinary endurance in traveling incomprehensible distances to and from the Pacific, and surviving obstacles such as dams and grueling water temperatures, is a lesson in the unfathomable power of nature to imbue its creatures with stamina far beyond human understanding.

Seeing the sockeye is sure to ignite a new appreciation for the importance of protecting and preserving species in the wild.

For its determination to survive despite humankind's abuses, the sockeye deserve our finest protections.

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