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Twelve Northwest tribes say they are united to save salmon

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A Snake River sockeye salmon after its long migration back from the Pacific Ocean to Redfish Lake Creek in Idaho.

SPOKANE, Wash. — Some Native American tribes in the Pacific Northwest are criticizing the suggestion they have competing opinions on how best to save endangered salmon runs, saying tribes are united in pursuing the removal of four hydroelectric dams on the Snake River in order to preserve the iconic fish.

A dozen tribes issued a joint press release on Wednesday rejecting the notion that tribes based near Puget Sound might have differing goals than inland tribes.

“Any efforts to divide the indigenous peoples of this region by suggesting that the Puget Sound Tribes don’t have the same interests as the Northwest Inland Tribes have been soundly rejected by tribal leaders,” Nez Perce Tribe Chairman Samuel Penney said in the release. “We are all salmon people.”

The dozen tribes are united behind a controversial proposal by U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson, an Idaho Republican, to spend some $33 billion on efforts to save salmon that include breaching the four dams.

The dams are located on the lower Snake River between the cities of Pasco and Pullman in eastern Washington state, and are blamed by some for blocking salmon from reaching spawning grounds.

Supporters of the dams point to ocean conditions, overfishing and other causes for the decline of salmon numbers.

Simpson’s plan to remove the Ice Harbor, Little Goose, Lower Granite and Lower Monumental dams also includes a 35-year moratorium on lawsuits, ending costly litigation over the dams’ environmental impact. That provision has caused a split among major Northwest environmental groups over the plan. Democratic Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and Republican members of Washington’s congressional delegation also oppose Simpson’s plan.

The 12 tribes who support Simpson’s proposal are the Nez Perce; Confederated Salish and Kootenai; Umatilla; Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation; Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs; Kootenai; Yakama Nation; Spokane; Shoshone-Bannock; Coeur d’Alene; Shoshone Paiute; Burns Paiute.


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