According to this month's Reel News, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) "is allowing industrial fishermen to commercially net remnant schools of sardines off the coast without requiring onboard observers to record the catch and the wasted bycatch, a commercial concession that even Washington has refused to allow". This appears to be a large operation; Washington is allowing the catch of 700 metric tons of sardines. In Washington, however, the catches must be officially logged, with observers on each net boat. ODFW's website, full of the usual salmon recovery propaganda, does not even mention the sardine harvest decision.
Since the salmon eat sardines, they are caught along with them in the nets. But no one will ever know how many Oregon salmon were caught along with salmon, and thrown back dead into the water as utter waste. Nor will anyone ever bother to figure out the extent to which lack of forage is a limiting factor in salmon production. In Norway, scientists build sophisticated computer models to predict how much harvest on one stock of fish will affect abundance of the other stocks that feed upon them, to optimize regulation of all fisheries. Here, we don't even take the measurements to get an idea of what is going on. It's much easier to blame everything on habitat development.
We all know there are less salmon around. There are less salmon around because we're catching too many of them, and it's getting warmer and the salmon are moving north. There are plenty of salmon in Alaska. And there are more and more salmon predators, like birds and marine mammals. Still, there is not one single species of salmon that's endangered. There is not one species of salmon that is about to disappear from the face of the earth.
Sure there are more hatchery fish now and less wild fish. That's what happens when you build a lot of hatcheries and fish at levels only hatcheries can support. That was the plan: substitute more productive hatcheries for less-productive wild runs. The fishery managers built even weirs across the rivers and electrocuted the wild fish or poisoned them.
During World War II, for four years in a row, every spring chinook coming up the Columbia was caught at Rock Island Dam and used for hatchery production, so you could say that every spring chinook in the Methow and the Entiat was a hatchery fish just a few generations ago.
Now the fishery managers have changed their minds. Hatchery fish are the unclean, the inferior race that stands in the way of a perfect wild genetic purity that hasn't been there for a hundred years. (Where have we heard this sort of thinking before?) So they club hatchery fish to death with baseball bats and sell them for cat food instead of letting them spawn. Instead of making money from fishing licenses, they're making money from fish carcasses.
The entire fishery management structure is utterly corrupt. The number one source of mortality that we can do something about is harvest, and the managers don't even count how many salmon are caught.
It used to be that the IRS would pay some attention, but then when the IRS was about to indict a bunch of tribal leaders for tax evasion for under-reporting harvest, Congress exempted all the tribal fishing income from federal income tax. They even exempted the wages of the people who drive the fish trucks and cut the fish up from federal employment tax. We have sort of a tax subsidy to kill the very same fish that if you kill them, you can go to jail.
These corrupt officials want to pretend that the people around here have something to do with salmon abundance. I'm here to tell you that irrigation practices in the Methow Valley don't have squat to do with salmon abundance.
Right now, the Federal government is letting the Tribes kill roughly one out of five salmon headed back for the Methow Valley. Each fish they kill for money is the biological equivalent to thousands of juvenile salmon. All the irrigators in the Methow Valley can kill dozens of juvenile salmon, and together probably don't kill as many as half a dozen adult fish. There are probably a few places out there where you could fix things up and make a little bit of difference, but for the most part, this whole thing is a pack of lies.
Now I'm a lawyer, so people ask me, how can we use the law solve this problem. You can use the law to slow things down, and tie up government officials for a while. But in the long run, the law is useless because there is almost no law left when citizen rights go up against government powers.
You could tell that earlier this week when some King County judge struck down I-695. You could tell that earlier this week when some Clinton appointee decided that the IRS didn't have to turn over records that would show which crooked politicians were demanding that people be audited. You can tell that by looking at nearly every legal decision that's come down about the salmon.
The law isn't any better than the judges, and the judges are mostly useless. The system has been rotting for years. Crooked politicians like Clinton appoint crooked judges and judges who don't believe in property rights; lazy politicians like Bush appoint judges who think the government is always right.
I don't mean to be too hard on Bush just because his father started these Endangered Species Act listings and appointed loser Supreme Court justices. He's the only candidate willing to take a stand against removing the Snake River Dams. If you people reach out and support Bush, maybe you can get him to appoint some people who will unlist all these fish. Always remember that these fish listings are not law, they are a choice made by bureaucrats. One Administration can list them; another can unlist them. That's the fastest solution to the salmon problem.
I've given up on the law. The Constitution is a dead letter. In the law schools, they make fun of the most important Constitutional rights; the only rights that count are those that are politically-correct.
Now I know that some of you are looking to a law called House Bill 2514 to save you, the one that establishes planning units for water. This is the type of crap that comes out of legislatures all the time now: a set of rules so complicated only lawyers can understand them, setting up a planning process that takes years to complete, and when it is done, the eco-nuts in Olympia can throw the plan on the trash heap. Instead of fixing the processes we have now, we just add a whole new layer of government on top to fight with the layers that are already there.
And we know how the fight is going to come out, because Governor Locke made sure of it by vetoing the part of the bill that said the State had to listen to these plans. And he all but said that any Indian Tribes that wanted to stick their nose in would get veto power over the plans too. That's why I say: we should be removing the Lockes, not the Dams.
House Bill 2514 is full of words like "collaboration" and "consensus". That is what we have come to in this country now. No one dares say that some people are right and some people are wrong, and we don't have to do the dumb things that the people who are wrong want to do. I think Margaret Thatcher said it best:
"Ah consensus the process of abandoning all beliefs, principles, values and policies in search of something in which no one believes, but to which no one objects; the process of avoiding the very issues that have to be solved, merely because you cannot get agreement on the way ahead. What great cause would have been fought and won under the banner 'I stand for consensus'?"
Why am I here? I'm here because freedom is a great cause. I'm here because this is the one of the few places I've been where there seem to be a lot of people who are waking up and realizing that something has gone very wrong with the United States of America. We have a Federal government that is out of control, trying to take over duties that properly belong to state and local government, and only to state and local government.
And the worst part, the federal government is messing up the things that it's really supposed to take care of. That's why the Chinese now have all our missile secrets and are threatening to blow us up every other week. That's why we have huge interstate commerce in endangered fish, even though it's against the law.
You don't have to believe in communist conspiracies or anything to think this way. It's just common sense. We don't need three or four or five layers of government all trying to do the same job and constantly inventing new jobs to justify their existence.
And that's what 90% of salmon recovery is. It's about scaring people that salmon are going to disappear by scapegoating things that have almost no effect on salmon, while hiding the ball about the things that really matter.
I doubt that anyone here is against salmon. That 10% of things we might be able to do to help salmon, most people will go along with that, if it makes sense and the people who pushing it are willing to pay for it. After all, if people want to put more water in the river for salmon, why don't they buy it? Because they are crooks. I know that's a harsh word, crooks, but what is the definition of crooks? People who steal things instead of paying for them.
So how to we get to the place where we are doing the 10% of things that make sense, and ignoring the 90% that doesn't make sense?
I don't have a lot of specific advice for you. I can only tell you what I think is important and not important. I want to leave you with three big ideas or general themes. There will be time afterwards to talk specifics.
Recruiting the Young
The most important thing to do is to get young people involved in this struggle. I was at a Board of Forestry hearing in Sacramento on Tuesday and the crowd was half full of EarthFirst! kids. One of them wore a T-shirt that said "question the purpose of human existence". And I thought, why are all these young people focused on things that don't matter for their futures, instead of the things that do.
And I look around here and I don't see hardly any young people. I see a lot of what has been called the greatest generation. I think that generation has suffered the greatest betrayal, as it beat back the forces of fascism only to see stupid philosophies warp its schools, its universities, its media networks, and, finally, its children and grandchildren.
The most serious threat to our future comes from the rise of tyranny, not the collapse of Nature. But we are raising an entire generation that that has been taught since kindergarten that government is always good and use of natural resources is always bad.
The greatest generation has failed to transmit its values and standards, and the young have made up their own, or simply lived with no values. Yet there are many of the young who thirst to be part of a righteous enterprise. They thirst for leaders they can help and support. I hope and pray that some of those leaders are here today.
Someone in the back of the room handed me an essay written by a twelve-year-old in Moses Lake. I want to read the conclusion of that essay to you, because it confirmed for me that there are still some young people out there with their heads screwed on straight:
"Dams are not the problem that is causing this big debate. The problem is people not looking at what will happen to them and their families as our nation slowly falls apart. Our over-powering government is digging our country a hole and is waiting for us to fall in."
To get the young involved, you have to provide projects that are fun and give a sense of accomplishment. That is really the secret of all political activism.
We can all learn something from the leftist activist groups. They have learned the power that small and committed groups can have. They drop huge banners to disrupt politicians' photo ops. They will camp in the front yards of public officials to protest their decisions. They stage skits. They block traffic during rush hour. They have parties and campouts and rallies where they can enjoy what they do. And it works.
The bad news is that only direct action like this will bring about real change. You have to start acting up and acting out. Because guess what. Nationally, farmers and ranchers are roughly 2% of the population. The clueless urban majority can drive them all off the land, leaving a handful of big corporations behind to grow the food, and nobody in the cities will know or care. Unless you make them care.
Now if you do nothing, I'm sure they'll be lots of subsidies along the way. There will be rural transition assistance. Most your elected leaders seem to think that the thing to do here is not point out that the programs are stupid, but to just put their hands out for more money. That brings me to my second big point.
Elect Better Leaders
Your last chance as citizens is that you still get to vote, and there are still local elections, and local officials still have some power. Unfortunately, so far, it doesn't seem like you all have managed to elect government officials who are willing to do the right thing.
Someone told me you guys have managed to elect some psycho as a Chelan County Commissioner who has publicly stated that he doesn't even believe in private property. Is that true? Who is this guy? And you wonder why we have a problem?
The Farm Bureau hosted a meeting on March 11th to educate people on the rights of counties, and none of the current Commissioners from Chelan and Okanagon County even bothered to show up. Is it any wonder NMFS thinks they can pick on your counties? They know that they are pushovers.
There are a few counties beginning to stand up to the federal government. Imagine if dozens of them did. What is the federal government going to do? Send in the troops to take over all those counties? That may be what it takes before the rest of America wakes up and asks what is going on here, just like the rest of America didn't wake up to civil rights abuses in the South until the officials down there turned the fire hoses on the protestors.
Some of you people are going to have to hold your nose and be willing to get inside the government, because as far as I can tell the best political leaders are people who have to be dragged kicking and screaming into office. Look around you, pick out people who have some sense, and use peer pressure to get them to run.
And remember that the more a candidate speaks the truth, the more you can count on the media to try and make that candidate look like a lunatic. The newspapers, especially these chain newspapers that are always looking to please some liberal, big-city owner, say that a candidate is too extreme, that's probably the candidate for you. These are extreme times. Taking away people's water because of a gross lie that it will help salmon is an extreme action.
You can elect County officials with the willpower to stand up to the Federal government, and call them on their lies. You can elect a Sheriff who demands cooperation from the Feds, or makes life difficult for them. You can elect people to School Boards who will make sure that crazy environmentalist ideas do not become the curriculum.
In the 1960s, the counterculture message was turn on, tune in and drop out. I want to tell you that you all need to turn on your computers, tune in to the Internet, and drop out of the mass media culture.
The mass media culture is designed to turn you into sheep. What is important is not on TV. I'll give you an example. Last Friday, a secret Justice Department memorandum leaked which said that the Attorney General bent the rules so that Al Gore, Hillary Clinton and their henchmen would escape the special prosecutor. And none of the three major TV networks covered it. At all. You know what ABC's top story was that night? More environmentalist propaganda.
If you spend enough time on the Internet, you will find out that the assault on rural America is part and parcel of the general trend of more and more power for government and less and less rights for citizens. There are very sinister trends out there that you will not read about in any mass media publication, but which are covered by hundreds of websites.
With electronic communications, you can take half an hour a week, and by just pressing buttons, you can send faxes and e-mails to politicians. That's what makes them stop and think before doing something stupid. Unless and until each of you is willing to do that, things won't get better.
If it were up to me, after you all have a chance to ask us some questions, I'd divide the crowd here into at least three interest groups. First, those of you who want to go ahead and point out that the Federal and State science is crazy, and get involved in resource planning and water management. Second, those of you who want to begin to educate our youth and get them involved. And third, those of you who want to begin organizing to put some sensible candidates into office.
I'm probably missing a category or two. But you have got to get organized, and work together with those of you who want to work on same things. Exchange contact information, and get to work. Because guess what. Things aren't going to get any better until you do.
© James Buchal, March 17, 2000
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