An editorial in today’s Lewiston Tribune asking organizations that are forcing Idaho to close steelheading as of this Saturday to have their lawyers “stand down” for the good of the fish and fish advocacy never stood a chance.
They are the Wild Fish Conservancy and The Conservation Angler, outfits that have run this exact same scorched-earth jihad elsewhere in the Northwest in the recent past.
Once again they’ve plucked low-hanging fruit — a missing authorization from the feds who have had since 2010 to approve it but are also busy on other items what with all these ESA listings, biops, pinnipeds, hatcheries, etc., etc. etc. — and are using it to derail a fishery.
It’s the same basic play they used in Washington over WDFW’s Puget Sound hatchery winter steelhead permit.
Before they filed that 2014 lawsuit in federal court, I wrote a blog that was not unlike the one offered up by the Tribune‘s editor,
I’ll quote Marty’s thoughtful piece at some length here:
In a binary world, it doesn’t matter that Idaho was a victim of federal inaction. The state had no permit. So when [Idaho Rivers United] and some of its fellow conservation groups threatened to sue, Idaho Fish and Game folded; declaring the season closed as of Dec. 8.
All of which has the result of forcing Riggins and other fishing communities to accept 100 percent of the sacrifice for what will be at best a negligible gain in fish survival.
Longterm, however, nobody wins — certainly not the fish.
Fishing communities such as Riggins, Salmon or Orofino bring a genuine Idaho message to the fish debate.
Many Idahoans live in one-horse economies. Moscow wouldn’t be much without the University of Idaho. Lewiston would be decimated by loss of its sawmill and paper plant. You wouldn’t recognize Idaho Falls without the Idaho National Laboratory.
They see themselves in the plight of Riggins outfitters and guides, hotel operators and restaurant owners whose businesses disappear without a fishing season.
Fishing communities also can deliver an economic counter-argument to those who say preserving the lower Snake River dams is more important.
If someone is not a fish advocate before he goes fishing in Riggins, he will undergo a conversion to the cause before leaving.
It was a hail Mary for reason, but teaming up with anglers and communities is not these groups’ style whatsoever.
While one of the original six organizations that threatened Idaho with a lawsuit if it didn’t stop the steelhead season by Dec. 8 did pull out, saying its goal of spurring NMFS to action on the permit had been accomplished, for WFC and TCA this isn’t about a critically low run or protecting wild steelhead.
This is about trying to impose their world vision on all of us.
Perhaps they even think it’s funny, their threat, like shooting fish in a barrel and a barrel full of laughs all at once.
They can be assured we will point fingers the whole way around, and for added laughs they trolled everybody with a proposed deal that appeared to favor one group of anglers – in this case, boat and bait bans and gear restrictions they asked IDFG to accept to not sue.
Any fly guys who got their tires slashed on the Clearwater since mid-November should send the bill to WFC et al.
In pissing off real fish advocates, they aren’t doing anybody any favors, or the fish, or the process.
Some news reports paint them as conservation organizations, but their repeated lawsuits show them for what they truly are: overly litigious asshats who enjoy burning bridges.
That’s not how real conservation works.
These days the fish, the wildlife, the habitat – it all needs bridges, connection, physically and metaphorically.
There is no more dangerous threat to the conservation of our salmon and steelhead than them and their extremist tactics that are ultimately about themselves, not the fish or the greater community.
If there’s some good in this, it’s that Idaho steelheaders and communities that depend on the fishery are now banding together to fight.
The Tribune‘s Eric Barker reports they’ve formed the Idaho River Community Alliance and two protests are going to be held this weekend.
The first will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at Riggins City Park.
The second will include a parade of trailered boats from the Port of Lewiston at 11 a.m. Sunday morning to the Southway Boat Ramp, where the protest will be.
I’m 400 miles away, but will be there in spirit.