While the hatchery plans on the Elwha will now be sorted out in court I have to mention one positive part of the Elwha hatchery plans. I believe that we have never seen the hatchery issue debated so much in the mainstream press. The Seattle Times has run numerous articles about the dispute and mentioned the science behind the debate. The local Port Angeles paper has even run an article or two about the issue. While the end result may not be what wild fish advocates would like, the fact that so many people are learning that hatchery fish and wild fish are not interchangeable has to be a good thing. This is especially true of the people who do not fish and would normally not even be aware of one of the largest issues in salmon and steelhead management in the Pacific Northwest.
Thursday evening I had the chance to attend an dam removal event which featured Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia. Speaking ahead of Yvon was Dylan Tomine who brought the house down with an impassioned plea to let nature recover on her own and leave the Elwha hatchery fish free. He was hands down the best speaker of the night and hundreds of people learned more about how wild fish can and will show us abundance if we just get out of their way and stop thinking we know the best ways to help them.
While the hatchery battle is likely lost on the Elwha the debate and public opinion is swinging in the right direction. Twenty years ago who would have thought that planting hatchery fish would be the most controversial part of the dam removal on the Elwha?
Let's also not forget that next month Condit Dam on the White Salmon River is set to come down. This restoration project will not be using hatchery fish and will rely on natural recolonization. One out of two aint bad.