Robert Lackey says population growth will doom wild salmon in Oregon and the Northwest. He may be correct. However, wild salmon have been declining for 150 years, and much of that time the human population was much smaller than it is now.
Salmon management and conservation has been under government control for this whole time. I would like to suggest that it is how we live on the land that makes the difference. Even though we have laws protecting water quality, watershed habitats, and salmon, the salmon continue to decline.
Robert Lackey leaves out of his discussion the role of government in promoting salmon decline by not enforcing regulations to protect the environment that sustain the salmon runs and the laws protecting the salmon from over utilization. This is not to discount the role of population growth and development, for that has certainly had an impact, but lax enforcement of laws to protect salmon has also made a long-term contribution to salmon decline. For example, Bridge Creek, a tributary to the Middle Fork of the John Day River had a dam built on it in 1946. Even though state law requires fish passage, none was built until a few years ago. The pond behind this dam warms the stream below so that it is lethal to salmonids, another violation of state law. But nothing has done to resolve this problem. Mr. Duin has written several articles excoriating the DEQ for not enforcing the law in places such as Bridge Creek and much larger problems affecting thousands of miles of Oregon streams.
Robert Lackey also skips over the high harvest rates on salmon that reduce spawner abundance. We know that naturally spawning hatchery fish reduce the reproductive fitness and survival of wild salmon. The fish managers point to the fact that 80-90% of the salmonids in the Columbia basin are of hatchery origin as if it were an accomplishment rather than a failure of management. The ODFW has the responsibility to protect the wild salmon, yet they continue to decline. All their plans, policies, and programs have failed to reverse the destructive decline of wild salmon.
Oregon government has established the laws and institutions to effectively manage and protect wild salmon, but it is not working.
There is much more to the salmon decline story in Oregon than Lackey explores, and unless Oregon government begins to follow the law and tell the truth about salmon management and habitat protection, more people living here will, for sure, make matters worse.