Idaho salmon and steelhead guides and outfitters have kept our boats on the trailers more than we would like to admit. We’ve been plagued with dismal fish returns, potential lawsuits, and hatchery issues. I see my industry and my town of Riggins continuing to fight the core issue: Our fish aren’t coming back.
Last month, I left my boat on the trailer, but this time to join other outfitters and community leaders in Washington, D.C. We brought the voice of Idahoans who are currently feeling the real impacts of the same sharp, downward trajectory of Idaho’s anadromous fish returns. We’ve been forced to become advocates for the future of our communities and our fish.
We usually don’t buy that politicians care about issues in our small towns. Rep. Mike Simpson shattered that presumption. We were 2,500 miles away and on the wall of his chief of staff’s office is a satellite image of my home river stretch. We were in awe of the amount of attention Rep. Simpson has given into a solution to bring back Idaho’s fish.
All four walls of Simpson’s office displayed the Columbia River system and the relationship of fish, energy production, and agricultural history. Every stakeholders’ questions and answers, knowns and unknowns were taped up on those walls. The dedication put into an issue that directly affects us -- and our family and sister river communities -- drew tears from some.
When the complexity of the issues facing the future of the Northwest is laid out, you realize the only way to bring our fish back while securing our energy future and low-cost agriculture product transport, requires input – not political grandstanding – by everyone.
Rep. Simpson is taking the most comprehensive approach to bring salmon back in a way that doesn’t jeopardize others in the same way the current system does to my industry. He has the will to question why we continue with a system that once benefitted everyone decades ago, but is hurting many Idahoans today. He gives us hope for the future of our fish and our communities.
We met with all of Idaho’s delegation and appreciate their hard work on addressing ways to hold us together in the short-term. But we encourage Sen. Mike Crapo, Sen. Jim Risch, and Rep. Russ Fulcher to be leaders for the future. Rural Idaho is depending on you. We will fail if Idaho’s delegation shies away from a holistic approach.
This approach emphasizes the need to improve habitat and hatcheries, better regulate harvest to give more equity for Idaho, scrutinize the future of the Snake River hydrosystem, and decrease predation rates.
I support my family by chasing steelhead and showing clients what a great resource Idaho has the potential to return to again. The outfitting community makes sacrifices, yet still there is not one outfitter who wishes anyone to live with as much uncertainty as our businesses do right now. Rep. Simpson left me inspired and motivated to see a Northwest solution that does not leave us with winners and losers, but a future that all Idahoans will benefit from. Idaho just needs to support him.
Roy Akins is a fishing outfitter and city council member from Riggins. He is also the chair for the Riggins chapter of the Idaho River Community Alliance.