What is ISSU?
ISSU is a sportsmen’s advocacy organization composed of a diverse group of Idaho businessmen, fishing guides, outfitters, conservationists, and concerned citizens. ISSU was formed in March 1984 through a merger of two separate conservation groups, each driven by a common concerns – the closure of salmon and steelhead seasons, and declining fish numbers.
The goal of the organization, at that time, and as it remains today, is to ensure that Idaho’s rivers will always be plentiful with salmon and steelhead for all to enjoy. ISSU is the only organization in Idaho pursuing the single agenda of restoring Idaho’s wild anadromous fish runs to healthy, self-sustaining, and harvestable numbers. ISSU is committed to keeping salmon and steelhead recovery issues in the forefront of the Idaho media and with Idaho’s elected officials. The organization is further committed to being the ”go to” source for factual information about Idaho recovery issues for the sporting public, political leaders, and others.
In the early 1980’s, with the closure of Salmon and steelhead seasons, many Idahoans and sportsmen thought the declining fish numbers were due to Indian Tribes harvesting too many fish. Idaho sportsmen had not yet realized that 80% of Idaho’s young salmon and steelhead smolt were being killed during their out-bound migration by downstream dams, most particularly the four dams in Washington on the lower Snake River stretches.
ISSU’s first legal action was to ask then Idaho State Attorney General Jim Jones to file an Amicus Curiae in the on-going Columbia River Compact (US Vs Oregon) litigation. This action got Idaho involved in salmon management. In 1985, ISSU sponsored legislation to stop the widespread selling of Wild steelhead in supermarkets. Also in 1985, ISSU sponsored legislation that added $3.00 to steelhead tags to be used for public access (i.e. parking areas, boat ramps, toilet facilities, etc.) at key locations along rivers and streams supporting Salmon and Steelhead migration. Both pieces of legislation were passed, and are still in effect today.
By 1987, ISSU had become the voice for the Idaho fisherman and participated in numerous discussion groups, hearings, and conferences. During this time period, it became evident that there were bigger and more significant reasons other than Indian tribal fishing causing the declining numbers of fish. The returning numbers were in freefall and it was becoming clear it was due to the out of state dams and not tribal fishing practices.
In 1991, Idaho’s fish were listed under the Endangered Species Act, and ISSU was selected to represent the entire Columbia Basin sports fishing community at the now infamous “Salmon Summit.” Sen. Mark Hatfield of Oregon convened the summit, and appointed the Northwest Power Planning Council to oversee the proceedings. Unfortunately, all that resulted from the 1991 Salmon Summit was a massive power play by the hydropower industry, the aluminum industry, and others represented by a high-powered mediation group from New York – none of these groups were concerned, to any degree, with the health of Idaho’s fish runs. End result …… the Salmon Summit was a miserable failure! This stacked deck set the stage for today’s fish problems. The summit also led to the end of the Power Council’s effective representation of migrating fish, having been co-opted by political appointees who made the power industry the only factor in the recovery debate, instead of the fish.
ISSU has since played a key role in elevating Snake River salmon and Steelhead into a national issue, having testified at numerous US Senate hearings and House Sub-Committees hearings. In fact, during the 2000 presidential election, the Pacific salmon recovery issue was a key discussion point in the Northwest debates.
Unfortunately, today, little has changed from the failing salmon plans adopted in the late 90’s. Idaho’s fish are still in an extinction spiral. Every year, millions of federal tax dollars are wasted on “feel good” measures that hold little or no hope for fish recovery. The deck is still stacked against Idaho fish and fishermen. Also suffering are small Idaho communities, outfitters and guides, and other Idaho businesses – all of whom, collectively, could be reeling in millions of dollars annually from a vibrant and flourishing fishing economy.
Idaho’s salmon and steelhead need the support of sportsmen now, more than ever. Current fish management policies are failing Idaho’s salmon and steelhead. Anti-fish “political skullduggery” has been both brazen and blatant, such as the recent attempt to close down the Fish Passage Center (FPC) – the one agency that furnishes accurate, reliable, and unbiased fish count information. This was a deliberate political move revealing the true “poker hand” of false concern for Idaho fish by regional politicians who did not like the scientific data being made available, so they decided to try to “kill the messenger”. It has become abundantly clear there is a deliberate attempt to ignore the dwindling Idaho fish returns in favor of hydropower, developers, and other out-of-state special interest groups. As a consequence, the fish numbers border on the edge of extinction and have plummeted to lows not seen since the 1950’s. Because reasoning has been ignored, ISSU in conjunction with other organizations have been in court in an effort to get the salmon and steelhead recovery issue out of the complete grasp of failed regional politics.
ISSU is a participating member of the Save Our Wild Salmon coalition, and works with other organizations, such as Taxpayers for Common Sense, in order to reveal the ridiculous, non-scientific based federal spending. Additionally, ISSU works with Idaho Fish and Game to develop good fishing regulations, sportsmen’s access, and stream restoration. Idaho’s fish, Idaho’s sportsmen, and the communities that depend on a healthy river environment need better leadership in order to regain Idaho’s salmon and steelhead populations for the overall benefit of Idaho’s future economic and ecological health.
The ISSU Board of Directors is determined to win this fight, but we cannot do this alone we need a united sportsmen front. The ISSU Board of Directors and members believe wild steelhead and salmon fish have an inherent right to exist. Restoring wild fish runs could bring millions of dollars to Idaho’s river communities. A free flowing lower Snake River below Lewiston is the most cost effective and reasonable solution to Idaho’s anadromous fish problems.