Idaho’s native, wild salmon and steelhead are endangered. Historically, there were more than 1.5 million wild Snake River basin salmon and steelhead. In 2017, only about 20,000 returned to Idaho. For sockeye in 2019, only 17 returned to their spawning grounds in the Sawtooth Valley after their journey from the Pacific Ocean. These fish are deeply entwined with the Pacific Northwest’s history, culture, economy, and environment, yet their passage back to Idaho is impeded by a number of factors, including dams on the lower Snake River. Many people and local communities rely on healthy and robust salmon and steelhead populations for their careers. Many dozens of plant and animal species, including orca whales, depend on salmon and steelhead coursing through Idaho’s waters for their survival. Recent attention on this extinction crisis intertwined with uncertainty in the region’s hydropower system offers a new approach to solving this issue.
The Idaho Conservation League and its local, state, regional and national partners have been on the front lines of keeping Idaho’s fish from going extinct and recovering them to healthy, abundant, and sustainable populations. Restoration projects have helped protect and maintain healthy habitat for salmon and steelhead in Idaho. For decades, ICL has helped conduct outreach, education, and engagement efforts across the state, connect residents with their elected representatives, lead fish recovery projects based on the latest and best science, and advocated for returning Idaho’s fish back in large numbers.
Recently, Idaho and other regional elected leaders have called for a new approach to solving this ecological and economic crisis in the Pacific Northwest, where wild fish populations have drastically fallen since the construction of four dams along the lower Snake River, blocking their migratory pathway. ICL is working closely with Idaho residents, river guides, businesses, political leaders, tribes, government agencies, and conservation partners to support solutions together that recover Idaho’s fish and strengthen Idaho communities, farms, and transportation options, while working toward an affordable and reliable clean energy future.