PAT NEAL: A decade of disaster

BY NOW WE are all fed up with know-it-all newspaper columnists telling us what the most important events of the last 10 years were. Anything they can do I can do better.

If you are a person who fishes, hunts or gathers wild foods, or enjoys bird watching, floating rivers or just being on public land on the Olympic Peninsula, the last 10 years have been one disaster after another. The days of enjoying these activities are numbered. In short, things are bad and getting worse if the last 10 years are any indication.

The view is even worse if you go back further into history and see how many of our natural resources have been lost.

Recently Murray Morgan’s classic 1955 book, “The Last Wilderness” was republished.

Morgan’s humorous history of the Peninsula had a Chamber of Commerce view of, “Trees as tall as skyscrapers, salmon as big as month-old calves.”

Now the days of old-growth is economically extinct. We log toothpicks for lumber. The big salmon are extinct.

Morgan described a Hoh River elk hunt where 5,280 elk hunters harvested 803 elk.

There aren’t that many elk shot on the entire Peninsula these days.

Flash forward to the last 10 years when just being on public land without the right permit could get you ticketed. In 2011 the hated Discover Pass, a $35 permit to be on state land was required. We were told the Discover Pass would fund State Parks. But we were told the lottery would fund education with similar failed results.

2011 also marked the beginning of the world’s largest dam removal project on the Elwha which opened up 70 miles of salmon spawning habitat. Unintended consequences of the dam removal project included a five-year fishing moratorium that’s increased to seven and the loss of the Olympic Hot Springs road and the myriad recreational opportunities of the upper Elwha Valley.

Dam removal also endangered the Port Angeles water system and the U.S. Highway 101 bridge over the Elwha River. At least the fish are coming back with the aid of the Lower Elwha’s $35 million dollar fish hatchery and the state’s chinook rearing channel.

Which begs the question, why can’t we restore the salmon and steelhead on Peninsula rivers that have never been dammed?

Salmon restoration has been another dismal failure in the last ten years.

While proven salmon restoration methods such as placing boxes of fertilized eggs in streams that would hatch into baby fish and migrate out to sea were rejected, millions were spent buying property from (willing) sellers, building engineered log jams and spraying herbicides on our rivers with predictable results.

Our fish continue to dwindle to extinction. After 100 years of planting hatchery fish in every river in the state, our fisheries mis-managers decided to give up and cave in to some environmental attorney’s demands to stop planting hatchery fish because they were somehow different than the native fish.

In 2014, 900,000 of our Puget Sound steelhead were planted in lakes in Eastern Washington instead of in our rivers. The elimination of our fish hatcheries has resulted in the starvation of the orca.

In 2018 the world watched as a mother orca named Tahlequah carried her dead calf for 17 days while the cameras rolled.

A blue-ribbon task force was formed to look into the problem of the orca starving into extinction with predictable results.

Nothing.

Like the orca, one million sea birds have recently starved to death off our coast. Adding to the systematic environmental carnage of the last 10 years.

The next 10 years can only get worse.

_________

Pat Neal is a Hoh River fishing and rafting guide and “wilderness gossip columnist” whose column appears here every Wednesday.

He can be reached at 360-683-9867 or by email via patnealwild [email protected].

More in Opinion

LETTER: Resist the Borg

Nice to hear Clallam County may achieve herd immunity as early as… Continue reading

PAT NEAL: Olympic Peninsula driving guide

The signs of summer are all around. The roar of the lawn… Continue reading

DIANE URBANI DE LA PAZ: The speed of the sound of live music

WATER IN THE desert: That’s how it felt when I heard the… Continue reading

LETTER: Poverty, overpopulation

What does poverty have to do with overpopulation? As a young person… Continue reading

PAT NEAL: Requiem for a river

Spring is a time of hope on the river. The salmon eggs… Continue reading

PAT NEAL: The Orca Task Force

Last week we examined the tragic results of capturing the orca for… Continue reading

Meiqi Liang 
photo courtesy of Meiqi Liang
DIANE URBANI DE LA PAZ: A year of transformation — in place

The post stopped me in the middle of my scrolling. Here was… Continue reading

PAT NEAL: A history of whaling continued

Last week, we reviewed the industrial slaughter that pushed our large whales… Continue reading

Paul Hansen
POINT OF VIEW: To save family farms like mine, pass capital gains as emergency measure

THE PANDEMIC HIT Washington hard. The economic collapse that arrived with it… Continue reading

ron allen
Legislature: Support Trust Land Transfer for state forests

People on the Olympic Peninsula benefit from our state forest lands in… Continue reading

PAT NEAL: A short history of whaling

It’s always fun to look back at this day in history to… Continue reading

Douglas Woodruff Jr.
Come together to save steelhead

OUR STEELHEAD ARE in serious trouble. For the Washington Department of Fish… Continue reading