Steelhead are displayed in a fishing net.

BOISE — Amid a backdrop of poor fish returns to Idaho this year, Gov. Brad Little’s salmon and steelhead recovery work group met for the second time July 30 and 31 in Salmon. Idaho Department of Fish and Game biologists have forecast another year of poor returns of large steelhead to the Snake and Clearwater rivers and its tributaries, underscoring the urgent need to find a solution for Idaho’s fish.

The Idaho Conservation League’s Executive Director Justin Hayes is a workgroup member along with about 20 interested stakeholders and lawmakers.

“Idaho’s fish are in crisis right now. Poor returns are the new normal, so we need to act urgently,” Hayes said in a statement. “The work group’s goal should be to restore wild fish throughout Idaho in harvestable and ecologically significant abundance. Recovery goals and plans need to be based on science.”

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Members of the workgroup toured habitat projects in the Salmon area where they saw firsthand the efforts to save Idaho’s fish by many people in the community.

“Tribes, conservationists, landowners, irrigators, government agencies and other Idahoans have created the most amazing habitat on Earth for our fish. Good work has been done, and we need to do more,” Hayes added. “What we heard was that if we are going to recover salmon and steelhead, we need to focus on all of the things that are limiting our fish. This includes habitat, hydropower, hatcheries and harvests. By tackling these issues in Idaho and the region, we hope to find win-win solutions together for salmon and steelhead restoration that are equitable, just, sustainable and prosperous for all Idahoans.”

Idaho’s iconic fish populations are spiraling toward extinction despite the hard work of many local communities. If Idaho loses salmon and steelhead, not only will these species perish — an integral part of Idaho’s history, culture, economy and outdoors life will also disappear. Bold action is needed now to develop solutions together that will keep communities whole.

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