However, when things have essentially changed little in the better part of the last 15 years in the management of the Snake River and Columbia River dams, besides some barging and attempts at flushing, w/ no real effective improvement in spawning habitats, rearing habitats, etc. (at a basin level scale), and yet you see these changes in population, both in the positive, and in the negative, you have to start looking at the factors that are changing. And Ocean conditions has been a huge one. El Nino/La Nina affects are well documented on anadromous fisheries, and where they end up during their ocean expeditions, as well as their succesfull rearing, or lack there of. Am I saying that none of the other stuff matters? Most certainly not. The larger issue behind decline in stocks, listed species, etc. isn't the population sizes (cause hatcheries "prove", more or less, that we can affect that in the positive), but the loss of the unique genetic material in each run. As populations decline, bottle necks form, with an increased risk of the loss of the genetic material, if we have a series of declining run years. The Redfish Lake Sockeye is an excellent example of that. Only a handful of fish returned, with documented significant loss of returning adults through the columbia and snake river dams. some where around 80-90% of the adults that passed Bonneville didn't make it to the spawning grounds in the upper Salmon. With a run of 250,000, not such a big deal. But with a run of 120, all the sudden a very big deal. Again, if we were dealing with native runs in the hundreds of thousands IN EACH stream system, local conditions, dams, harvest wouldn't be such a big deal. But because we aren't, and essentially every fish counts that can make it back continuing the propogation of that valuable genetic material, those factors do become important... All things are cumulative, and no, removing the dams won't solve all our problems, but it's one of many factors that could have been address, and incrementally improved runs and reduced risks of extinction. In the case of the dams, I believe those would have been some HUGE increments!
As far as the politics? don't disagree with you there, for the most part. But before comparing politicians and parties of yester-year to today, note that it was a republican that enacted much of the best conservation legislation to date (Richard Nixon), and more importantly, a republican of yester-year is not the same republican now, and neither are the dem's. Yesteryear's Dixie-crats are this year's republicans and vice versa. As far as the influence, I think it's significant, because the rules, regs, special orders, etc. that they set in place (and this includes both the executive and the legislative branches) sets the tone for how resource issues are addressed. The Roadless Rule, under the Clinton Administration, is a perfect example. That rule has SIGNIFICANTLY influenced the direction and management of USFS lands in the western US. And so has W's unwillingness to support it now. Those rulings, and lack there of, direct and influence activities on the ground, and where the money goes to do it. With dam removal "taken off the list", the various resource management agencies, etc. will no longer look to that option, and instead, spend their money and efforts elsewhere. I hope they're as successful as they think they are going to be, but recent history indicates to me their anticipated success is a far cry from what will be reality.
I agree that we, as concerned conservationist, must keep our eye on all the factors. We would have been fools to think that the moratorium, had it stood, would be the salvation of native stocks in western Washington. That would have been a damn good step (and it's not like "we" didn't get a step forward in the final outcome, tho not nearly as large) in the right direction, but much more needs to be done. so to with the Columbia River and Snake River systems, etc.
so is this argument circular or what???
damn, i need to get my stolen gear replaced and get back on the river!!!