Dear Editor:

As business owners and fishing outfitters, we pride ourselves on being self-reliant. We work long days in tough weather, fix equipment on the fly, adapt to changing river conditions, and chase an animal we can’t even see. We do all of this with smiles on our faces as we provide our clients the best day they’ve ever had on the Northwest’s most beautiful rivers. While this business has never guaranteed us a 40 hour week or paid time off, it’s never felt this unsteady. A shuttered 2019 steelhead season, continually abysmal spring Chinook returns, and now COVID19 have ravaged our industry. It’s not just our livelihoods, but the hotels, restaurants, gas stations, and bars across rural Idaho that depend on our fish coming back every year to pay for groceries and mortgages.

True to our independent nature, we are uncomfortable knowing the future of our businesses are totally dependent on others now. Our livelihoods are bound to a mass of bureaucracy that includes federal agencies housed in Portland, Seattle, and DC. Based on their recent analysis of the Columbia River system in their Draft Environmental Impact Statement, it’s hard to believe they have even a minimal appreciation of what fishing means to this region. It’s hard to believe they have our best interests in mind when they didn’t even include a real economic analysis of our industry. Hard to believe they are serious about recovering our fish when they kicked the can down the road and will certainly end up back in court for another five years, while we continue to suffer from uncertainty and poor returns. Hard to believe they really care about the public they serve when they refused to give us and local leaders more time to consider the draft’s findings as COVID19 shut down life as we knew it.

It has never been clearer that federal agencies like the Bonneville Power Administration and Army Corps of Engineers can’t prevent the extinction of our fish, and our industry along with it. We need a bigger solution, which will only happen with leadership from those privileged enough to be our elected representatives. They cannot continue to sit by quietly as we lose our clients and consider closing our businesses. As our lifetime dreams of passing along our family-owned businesses to our children disappear. As we consider leaving the communities we love. As the families that power the businesses along the Clearwater and Salmon suffer our same fate. Are Senators Crapo and Risch and Rep. Fulcher comfortable with this? Will they continue to champion the decades-long fish “recovery” failure of federal agencies over the livelihoods of their most vulnerable constituents? Or will they join Rep. Simpson in his quest to keep all of us whole as he works toward solutions that help fishermen, farmers, tribes, and rate payers? Delegates, it’s time to get off the bench and into the game. We’ve needed you for a while, but it’s not too late. Lead us through the tough discussions to find solutions we can all live with. Amplify the voices of rural Idaho. Save our fish.

Most of all… represent us.

Toby Wyatt, Reel Time Fishing and President of Clearwater Chapter Idaho River Community Alliance

Jason Schultz, Hells Canyon Sport Fishing and Vice Chair of Clearwater Chapter Idaho

River Community Alliance

Kyle Jones, Jones Sport Fishing

Adam Hocking, Steel Dreams Guide Service

Tom Bullock, Clearwater River Company

Travis Wendt, Reel Time Fishing

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