GRANGER, Wash. - Last week, a federal judge sent the federal government back to the drawing board to come up with a more specific and more effective plan for saving Pacific Northwest salmon. This week, more than 1,100 businesses have signed a letter to President Obama stressing the economic reasons that a better plan is needed.
The letter asks the president to urge all sides to begin collaborative talks as part of rewriting the government's salmon plan, which Judge James Redden rejected. At the top of the list is jobs, with commercial, recreational and tribal fishermen all depending on good salmon seasons - although Buzz Ramsey, Yakima Bait Co. marketing director, says there are plenty of communities and related industries whose success is also on the line.
"Either directly there at our factory, or the sales force and everything, connects to about 200 family-wage jobs. We distribute to tackle stores ranging from small mom-and-pop shops all the way to outfits like Fred Meyer and BiMart, and others. So yeah, it supports a lot of jobs."
In 20 years of debate over salmon, Zeke Grader, executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations
, thinks there has been too much arguing and too little collaboration. He would welcome a new approach.
"I think it's time to get everybody sitting down at the table, rather than taking shots at one another, either in court or in the press."
For years, adds Ramsey, there have been strict catch limits on the numbers of wild fish. He says he'd like to see a day when that is no longer necessary.
"Everywhere these fish go - in the ocean and on their way back up the Columbia River - the fisheries are restrained. We'd like to see the federal government come forward with a salmon plan that would model out for recovery - not only recovery of salmon, but recovery of the economies around it."
The letter, signed by people from restaurant and tourism businesses to outdoor retailers and clean-energy advocates in 34 states, can be read online at pcffa.org