Susan Roberts

My Voice

About the author

Susan Roberts is a Wallowa County Commissioner and Chair of the Grande Ronde Model Watershed Board of Directors My Voice columns reflect the views of the author only. My Voice columns should be 500-700 words or as space allows. Submissions should include a portrait-type photograph of the author. Authors also should include their full name, age, occupation and relevant organizational memberships. We edit submissions for brevity, grammar, taste and legal reasons. We do not fact check. We reject those published elsewhere. Send columns to La Grande Observer, 1406 5th St., La Grande, Ore., 97850, fax them to 541-963-7804 or email them to news@lagrandeobserver.com .

Farming is important to Oregon’s economy. So are salmon. And in Eastern Oregon, there is a federal program that helps balance the two while supporting our local economy: the Pacific Coast Salmon Recovery Fund.

The salmon recovery fund provides grant dollars to states and tribes to do on-the-ground work in Oregon, California, Washington, Idaho and Alaska. It has invested $222 million in Oregon since its launch by Congress in 2000. That $222 million has been matched by $348 million in state Lottery funds, bringing the total to protect and enhance salmon habitat to $570 million.

The salmon fund has enabled several projects in the Grande Ronde Watershed to improve irrigation efficiency so farmers use less water and energy while maintaining the same or more yield, leaving more water in rivers and streams for fish. The program has also helped fund salmon habitat restoration, including the Wallowa River 6 Ranch project and the Catherine Creek 44 restoration complex — two of the most significant private land restoration projects implemented in the Grande Ronde Basin.

These projects also support the local economy through jobs. Local contractors implement these projects and almost all of the other meaningful watershed projects in the basin, meaning jobs for local families. According to the University of Oregon, every $1 million spent on habitat restoration creates 15-24 jobs in the local economy, and more than 90 cents of every dollar invested stays in Oregon’s local, often rural, communities. Eliminating the Pacific Coast Salmon Recovery Fund will cost jobs and disrupt Oregon projects in the pipeline for funding this year.

Finally, these projects reduce the regulatory burden of the Endangered Species Act on our local agricultural producers. That’s part of the point of the Pacific Coast Salmon Recovery Fund: support local people and organizations to implement projects that will help provide the habitat, water quality and water quantity that ESA-listed salmon and steelhead need. In doing so, everyone is better off because the sharper side of the ESA sword can remain sheathed.

In other words, this salmon recovery fund is helping achieve the balance we need in Eastern Oregon because it supports, invests in and values all of the natural resources we rely on: water, fish and farms.

The Pacific Coast Salmon Recovery Fund has been eliminated from President Trump’s 2019 budget. Please join us in urging Oregon’s congressional delegation to restore full funding to this crucial program that enables the vital work we do in Union and Wallowa counties to support fish, farms, landowners and our local economy.

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