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The IDFG decision is right for river communities and fish

RIGGINS, DECEMBER 7, 2018 -- The newly formed advocacy group, Idaho River Community Alliance (IRCA), is happy to announce an agreement has been made between the downstream environmental groups that threatened suit against the Idaho Fish and Game for its lack of a permit to incidentally catch wild steelhead that will prevent the closure of steelhead season on Dec. 7.  

“There is a huge weight lifted off of our community’s shoulders,” said Richard Friend, IRCA board member and owner of River Adventures Riggins. “We were facing economic disaster without our winter steelhead season.”

The agreement was forged through negotiations that ended with the downstream groups agreeing to suspend their treat to file suit. That suspension prompted the IDFG Commission to vote Friday to reinstate the steelhead season across the state.

The negotiations also led to an agreement to close two sections of river: The South Fork of the Clearwater upstream of the Mount Idaho grade bridge and the Main Salmon from Warren Creek to Copper Mine boat ramp.

As part of the agreement between the downstream groups and the IRCA, outfitters on the Salmon and Clearwater voluntarily agree to: 1. Use single, barbless hooks; 2. Keep first caught hatchery fish; and 3. Not remove wild fish from the water.

The IRCA will conduct workshops to educate outfitters, captains and deckhands about the new voluntary regulations.

“This is really a win for everybody,” said Roy Akins, IRCA Chair and owner of Rapid River Outfitters. “Now we can get back to work and focus the attention on fish recovery.”

Akins said destroying the economies of small towns wasn’t going to help recover runs of salmon and steelhead.

“It is so much more productive if everybody with the goal of fish recovery work together,” he said. “We have a long way to go, but now we have the conduits open for discussion with groups we previously didn’t.”

The IRCA was created to overt the economic harm of losing this winter’s steelhead season, but it’s mission continues as a voice for the protection of anadromous fish, the protection of central Idaho rivers and the protection of the communities who depend on those fish and rivers for survival.  

“Our community is amazing and we can move mountains when we work together for a common cause,” said Kim Olson, IRCA board member and owner of the River Rock Cafe in Riggins. “We have created a seat at the table. Steelhead recovery is critical to our community and we need to have a voice. Now we do.”