Work-In-Progress Report: Looking for Common Ground: Comparison of Recent Reports Pertaining to Salmon Recovery in the Columbia River Basin

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Within the last several years a number of important documents related to salmon recovery in the Columbia River Basin have been produced, each purported to be based on sound science and each containing various conclusions and recommendations for changes in management practices. The Independent Scientific Advisory Board felt it would be useful to identify major points of agreement and disagreement among these reports and have therefore initiated this comparison. The project began in early 1997 and the original intent was to compare the findings of the Independent Scientific Group report "Return to the River" (ISG 1996), the National Research Council report "Upstream" (NRC 1996), and the draft report of the interagency task force on management of federal lands in the interior Columbia River Basin, which was subsequently issued as a report of the US Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management in mid-1997 (USFS/BLM 1997). Further discussions within the ISAB convinced us that the comparison should be expanded to include the National Marine Fisheries Service 1995 "Proposed Recovery Plan for Snake River Salmon" (NMFS 1995) and the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission salmon recovery plan "Wy-Kan-Ush-Mi Wa-Kish-Wit, Spirit of the Salmon" (CRITFC 1995), as these two documents were being used to guide a number of important management decisions in the basin.The ISAB realized that the specific focus of each report was somewhat different, depending upon particular management issues with which each was concerned. Nevertheless, we identified eight topics that were addressed in many of the documents: (1) conceptual foundation, or the basis for implementing strategies and tasks, (2) natural variation, (3) habitat, (4) artificial propagation, (5) hydroelectric operations, (6) salmon harvest, (7) institutions, and (8) monitoring and evaluation. No single report dealt in detail with all these topics and some topics were clearly beyond the mandate of the particular sponsoring organization or agency. But there was enough information to make comparison worthwhile.Obviously, none of the reports was meant to be the final word on salmon recovery in the Columbia River Basin. Two of them (ISG and CRITFC) are currently in draft or pre-publication form and a third (NMFS) is a draft recovery plan under the Endangered Species Act. In the aggregate, however, these reports represent a tremendous regional investment in scientific thinking about a very difficult and complex natural resource management problem. Because there is neither complete certainty nor consensus about how to recover salmon in the Columbia Basin, the ISAB felt identification of areas of agreement or disagreement would help clarify what is currently known and highlight unknowns for further research and management attention.This report contains two parts. Part I is a summary of the major points of scientific consensus and lack of consensus and is meant to be the ISAB’s interpretation of the key conclusions of the five documents. Part II provides a more detailed summary of the major conclusions of each report with respect to the eight topics.

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