The Snake River, one of America’s Most Endangered Rivers of 2009, still faces critical threats

Six months after 'Most Endangered River' listing, river still threatened by Obama administration's failure to significantly revise Bush-era salmon plan

October 20th, 2009

Caitlin Jennings, American Rivers, (202) 243-7077
Michael Garrity, American Rivers, (206) 213-0330, x. 11

Seattle— Six months after American Rivers named the Snake River third on this list of America’s Most Endangered RiversTM for 2009, the river is more endangered than ever, thanks to a recent decision by the Obama administration to defend a 2008 Bush-era plan for managing dams and salmon.

The Obama administration’s plan risks the future of the Snake River and its legendary wild salmon by continuing failed dam management strategies and only “planning to plan” for stronger salmon recovery measures – such as removing four salmon killing dams on the lower Snake River – if already critically low salmon populations crash even further. 

“It is deeply disappointing that the Obama administration has chosen to defend a plan that takes years to begin seriously studying the actions capable of restoring imperiled Snake River salmon,” said Rebecca Wodder, president of American Rivers.  “The situation is too urgent to keep playing political games with the future of the Snake River and its salmon – we hope that a federal court will soon give the administration a second chance to do right by salmon, farms, and local communities.”

This month, Judge James A. Redden of the U.S. District Court in Portland, Oregon is reviewing legal briefs on whether the Obama administration’s interpretation of the 2008 salmon plan meets the requirements of the Endangered Species Act.  A ruling is expected by late fall.  Earlier this year, Judge Redden signaled that he would throw out the plan unless the federal government committed to stronger, more certain salmon recovery actions.

Snake River salmon and steelhead begin their life’s journey high in the mountains of central Idaho, northeast Oregon, and southeast Washington state.  They then head out to sea, returning to their natal rivers to spawn years later.  The fish returning to the headwaters of Idaho’s Salmon River spawn at higher elevations than any other salmon and steelhead in the world.  This high elevation habitat is likely to continue to be productive even in the face of global warming, but only if impacts of the four dams on the lower Snake River – which heat up and slow down the river and provide refuge for predator fish that eat young salmon – are significantly reduced. 

“Snake River salmon have unmatched spawning habitat in the mountains of the inland Northwest,” said Wodder.  “The question is whether the Obama administration will exert the leadership necessary to allow future generations to experience one of nature’s great migrations.”

To learn more about the 2009 Most Endangered Rivers Report, please visit www.AmericanRivers.org/EndangeredRivers.

About America’s Most Endangered Rivers™
Each year, the America’s Most Endangered Rivers report highlights the rivers facing the most uncertain futures. The report presents alternatives to proposals that would damage rivers, identifies those who make the crucial decisions, and points out opportunities for the public to take action on behalf of each listed river.

The America’s Most Endangered Rivers Report results in thousands of supporters taking action on behalf of their beloved river. Such action produces immediate and tangible results. To see success stories visit www.americanrivers.org/MERSuccesses


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About American Rivers

About American Rivers

American Rivers protects wild rivers, restores damaged rivers, and conserves clean water for people and nature. Since 1973, American Rivers has protected and restored more than 150,000 miles of rivers through advocacy efforts, on-the-ground projects, and the annual America’s Most Endangered Rivers® campaign. Headquartered in Washington, DC, American Rivers has offices across the country and more than 200,000 members, supporters, and volunteers.

Rivers connect us to each other, nature, and future generations. Find your connections at AmericanRivers.org, Facebook.com/AmericanRivers, and Twitter.com/AmericanRivers.