Nez Perce Tribe Calls for Leadership on Lower Snake River Restoration
Press Release | Nez Perce Tribe
Lapwai, ID – Restoring the lower Snake River and its salmon, steelhead, and lamprey could not be more critical for the Nez Perce people, given the location of the Tribe’s homeland and treaty-reserved territory, and the central role of salmon, steelhead, and lamprey in Nez Perce culture. The dams on the lower Snake River and the mainstem Columbia have had—and continue to have—an enormous impact on salmon and steelhead, and the Nez Perce people. The Nez Perce Tribe has long publicly supported restoring the lower Snake River by breaching the four dams there and investing in affected local communities.
“We view restoring the lower Snake River as urgent and overdue. To us, the lower Snake River is a living being, and, as stewards, we are compelled to speak the truth on behalf of this life force and the impacts these concrete barriers on the lower Snake have on salmon, steelhead, and lamprey, on a diverse ecosystem, on our Treaty-reserved way of life, and on our people.” stated Chairman Shannon F. Wheeler.
The Tribe has actively participated in the Endangered Species Act and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) litigation involving the impacts of the federal dams on the lower Snake River and mainstem Columbia River. The Tribe agreed with U.S. District Judge Michael Simon about the unique opportunity a comprehensive Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) provides—that a comprehensive EIS “may be able to break through any logjam that simply maintains the precarious status quo” while the Federal Columbia River Power System “remains a system that ‘cries out’ for a new approach and for new thinking” if wild Pacific salmon and steelhead are to survive their encounter with modern man.
“Today, we find an EIS that fails to provide the accurate, complete, and transparent information and analysis of the impacts of the four lower Snake River dams that are necessary for national and regional decision-makers, and are required by law under NEPA. And now we find a fifteen-year BiOp – in the face of looming climate change projections – that requires no more protection for salmon and steelhead than the 2019-2021 Spill Operation Agreement that was merely intended to be an interim agreement – a bridge – to the development of a more significant system improvement. Both are unacceptable,” Chairman Wheeler continued.
“We are committed to continuing to provide leadership on restoring the lower Snake River in all forums: from the halls of Congress, to our federal agency trustees and partners, to the courtroom, to the statehouses, to conversations with our neighbors, energy interests, and other river users,” concluded Chairman Wheeler.