Markkula Center of Applied Ethics

Looking to the Future:Salmon Conservation Through Applied Ethics and Spirituality

By Christina Loraine Mogren



Throughout the history of the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), under the jurisdiction of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), people have faced restrictions on their allotment of resource usage. NOAA and NMFS fall under the United States Department of Commerce (DoC), whose mission is to "promote job creation and improved living standards for all Americans by creating an infrastructure that promotes economic growth, technological competitiveness, and sustainable development." Their mission appears to conflict with standards set down by the Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 1973. NMFS supports the domestic and international conservation and management of living marine resources. As a government agency they are bound by law to recognize and uphold the ESA, especially as sustainable harvest of salmon depends on conservation initiatives. The problems facing residents of Methow Valley are the result of this conflict between job promotion and salmon conservation. Here, the ongoing debate is the legality of diverting water from rivers and streams historically used by salmon during migrations in order to irrigate farms and water cattle.

The Methow River is fed annually when warmer temperatures melt snow packs in the Northern Cascades; this runoff flows into streams and tributaries, eventually flowing into the larger rivers. The Columbia River, flowing into the Pacific Ocean, is the final destination (see map on page 2). However, towards the end of the summer months, snowmelt runoff reaches its lowest point of the year and water in tributaries drops significantly. This puts strain on farmers needing water as well as fish making the fall migration upstream to spawn. Water flow levels are thus directly dependent on annual amounts of precipitation. Coupled with already compromised salmon populations, lower flow in streams contributes to salmon declines. As such, Upper Columbia steelhead trout were listed as endangered under the ESA by NMFS in 1997, followed by Upper Columbia chinook salmon in 1999. Obligated to act under the ESA, NMFS proposed a restriction stating that once streamflow reached a 35 cubic feet per second (cfs) threshold all water diversions must be stopped.

Twenty different ditches were dug in Methow Valley between 1900 and 1910, most of which are still in use today by irrigators. None of these ditches were built with any public assistance with the exception of the Methow Valley Irrigation District (MVID), aside from the land acquired under the Homestead Act of 1862. This Act allowed settlers in Methow Valley to claim up to 160 acres if they proved they had lived on the land for five years, made improvements to the land, and paid the filing fee. Irrigation of dry fields was one of the allotted land improvement means. Farmers irrigated essentially unhindered until the late 1990s when chinook and steelhead were listed as endangered.

Complicating the problem is the fact that the Skyline Ditch Company , a privately owned company supplying irrigators with water, has its irrigation canals built on federal lands and flowing through the Okanogan National Forest. Because of this, irrigation can be federally controlled. Under the ESA, NMFS has the power to curtail irrigation and use of water in order to promote salmon conservation. The Methow Valley Irrigation District (MVID) does not have the same problem with federal interference in irrigation as their canals are built upon private lands - NMFS does not have the power to restrict private actions unless it can be proven that endangered species are subject to "take," not just being jeopardized .

The shareholders of the Skyline Ditch Company feel entitled to compensation from the federal government since their water consumption is being restricted. Citing several federal court cases, they believe that they are entitled to just compensation for the water they are denied in late summer. For many, this denial of water equates to lessened harvests and draws from individual economic livelihoods. Additionally, Skyline shareholders feel as though an unfair majority of the conservation burden is being placed on their shoulders, especially as MVID irrigates completely on privately owned land. Wildlife and water are both the property of the state of Washington, and as such the state is obligated to preserve both. The Legislature declares that the public and private propagation, production, protection, and enhancement of fish are in the public interest . Therefore it makes sense that the responsibility of conservation should be shared by all residents of Methow Valley as opposed to the few unfortunate enough to have irrigation canals running over federal lands. The Skyline shareholders are rightly concerned about salmon conservation being placed before their economic livelihoods, especially as this provokes the ethical question of whether to put animals before people, in light of the ESA.

NMFS has made the effort in the past under the direction of the current NOAA northwest regional administrator, Bob Lohn, to reach out to the Methow Valley residents through public hearings . By education and working directly with the people, NMFS sought to reach a compromise. However, whether for purposes of local political agenda or stubbornness on the parts of irrigators, the turn out to publicly held meetings was poor, indicating to the agency that the shareholders had no interest in working with them. Under the ESA, NMFS is not required to engage in public hearings with the people affected; as written law, the ESA permits them to act without consultation when immediate action is needed to conserve species listed as threatened or endangered. Ethical issues arise here again with how much of an effort the government should make to engage the locals in conservation initiatives when they have so stoutly opposed intervention in the past.

The purpose of this report is to communicate to the people of the Methow Valley the importance of conservation initiatives to save chinook and steelhead salmon, while at the same time taking into consideration the needs of individuals dependent upon water resources needed by salmon. The goals of this assessment are: to educate the public through a compilation of all the information concerning the problem of water use rights for ditch irrigation in Methow Valley; summarize the different water use policies pertinent to the water rights in question; deconstruct the water policies with ethical and spiritual arguments; and propose reasonable solutions to meet irrigation and conservation needs.

Historical Background:

Stewardship of land in the Pacific Northwest goes back to the days preceding the pioneers when Methow tribes of Native Americans inhabited the land. Their habitation goes back 8-10,000 years, in which time they lived sustainably with nature. When pioneers came into the area and started making contact with the Methow, members of the tribe started to die from a mysterious illness later attributed to smallpox; one third to one half of the Methow died as a result of European diseases. When Congress declared that Indian tribes were no longer regarded as independent nations in 1871, they were relocated to the Colville Reservation in eastern Washington; the irony of this relocation is that the Methow Valley became a designated reservation for four different tribes. The Methow Valley reservation was short lived, however, when precious minerals were discovered in the upper valley. President Grover Cleveland opened the valley up to pioneers and settlers in 1886.

Although myriad information discredits the "Noble Savage" idea of people living in perfect harmony with nature, the subsequent effects pioneers had on the environment, when compared to those of the Methow Indians, were much greater. With the pioneers came settlements, farms, towns, and a growing infrastructure mainly dependent on waterways. The taming of the Columbia River and its tributaries came in the form of dams to make the turbulent waters navigable for barges, which spelled disastrous for salmon needing to travel up- and downstream. Harnessing the power of the rivers allowed for irrigation of new farmlands as well as sources of hydroelectric power, a crucial aspect to the Pacific Northwest's economy. Ironically, descendents of the original pioneers are now facing the relinquishment of their water rights, much in the same way the original stewards had their rights to the land taken away. The salmon swam the waters of the Columbia River and its tributaries long before the arrival of man, and once again they are being given the opportunity to reclaim their habitat by organizations like NMFS who speak for their rights to exist, whether for intrinsic or economic values.

Unfortunately, salmon recovery is not something that can easily be enacted. There are a multitude of problems threatening their rebound, mostly dealing with the genetic integrity of different populations of chinook salmon and steelhead trout. Initially they were overharvested by settlers and burgeoning canning industries along the rivers. Fishing methods employed were not economically viable, and as such fish populations experienced crashes that then led to the closure of the canning industry. The building of dams to make the rivers navigable created new barriers for fish needing to move upstream to spawn, as well as for fry (juvenile salmon) needing to migrate downstream to the oceans. In addition, they altered habitat, in some places irreparably, by flooding spawning grounds and changing depths and temperatures of water. Fry have a lessened survival rate swimming downstream while crossing vast areas of stagnant water as it tends to be deep and much colder than they can manage. Too shallow water, conversely, due to low water flow, overheats the fish. Unfortunately, the economic importance of the dams outweighs the negative impact they have on salmon recovery, so their removal is not considered a workable option.

The United States Forestry Service works to manage national forests in a way that they can be sustainably logged. Before the environment was taken into consideration and substantial research had been conducted on the effects of logging, forests were clear cut all the way up to stream and river banks. This allowed for sediment erosion into waterways that not only degraded the surrounding terrestrial ecosystems but also covered gravel stream bottoms the salmon used to spawn. The combination of overharvesting, destruction of habitat through dams, and effects of sediment runoff has contributed to the severely reduced numbers now observed in chinook salmon and steelhead trout - it is now imperative that action be taken to rebound the rapidly declining numbers of endangered fish in the Upper Columbia River Basin to preserve not only the fish, but the cultural heritage of the northwest.

One way to increase numbers, through the rearing and releasing of hatchery salmon, now threatens to compromise the genetic integrity of fish in the river systems. As anadromous fish, salmon are born in freshwater streams, migrate downstream to the ocean where they mature, and then proceed to make the journey back upstream to the place where they were born to spawn and then die. It is unclear how, at this point, the fish know exactly what stream to swim back to: whether they rely on magnetic indicators or some chemical signal has yet to be discovered. But because essentially related fish have for centuries been returning to the same streams to spawn, each stream ecosystem contains genetically distinct populations of fish that have adapted to their particular stream environment. This means they may be specially adapted to cope with regional environmental stressors, such as indigenous predators, bacteria, and viruses. Introduced hatchery fish interbreed with native populations and water down their genetic individuality, making them more susceptible to predation and disease. Hatchery fish may be economical options for the fishing industry, but they do not return salmon to historical numbers of genetic diversity.

Pertinent Federal and State Water Laws

Summarized below are those water laws pertaining to the current issue of whether Skyline stakeholders have the right to compensation for water limitations during the late summer months. To reiterate, the state of Washington has jurisdiction over water and wildlife. The following acts relate to water use rights.

  • - The Organic Act of 1897 - Created the National Forest System for the purpose of establishing forest reserves in order to reserve lands of the public domain for contribution to the welfare and prosperity of the country, through regulation of occupancy and use and to preserve the forests thereon from destruction. Interestingly enough, Congressman Safroth responded to this act by saying: "It is a matter of interest to people in the West only as to whether these reservations are properly established. It is on account of the waters which are to irrigate our agricultural lands that we are interested in forest reservations." (c1897)

  • - 1901 Act - Authorized the Secretary of the Interior, upon the approval of the Department under whose supervision a federal reservation of land falls, to permit the use of rights-of-ways through forest reservations for water ditches. This act further allowed the Secretary and/or his successor to revoke these rights at their discretion. Thus, this act provided ditch operators with a license revocable by the government as opposed to a vested property interest. This was repealed by Congress in 1976 and replaced with the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) that authorizes the Secretary of Agriculture to renew rights-of-way through national forests for ditches for the transportation of water. It requires the rights-of-way to contain terms and conditions that will minimize damage to fish and wildlife habitat and otherwise protect the environment.
  • - Minimum Water Flows and Levels Act of 1967 - Authorized the Department of Ecology to, upon request of Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife or on its own, establish minimum flows by administrative rule to protect fish, wildlife, and water quality.
  • - Water Resources Act of 1971 - Passed by the state legislature to protect and manage the state's water resources for the greater benefit of the people. This became necessary when applications for larger amounts of water for irrigation and other purposes caused escalating conflict among farmers. It is this law where the present instream flow levels are derived (35cfs) for the Methow River tributaries.
  • - National Forest Management Act (NMFA) - Established in 1976 by Congress. Requires land management plans for the national forests to take into consideration the protection of forest resources to provide for watershed, wildlife, and fish; and to provide for diversity of plant and animal communities.
  • - Watershed Management Act of 1998 - Provides a framework for the collaborative solution of water issues and is designed to allow local citizens and local governments to join together with state agencies and tribes to form planning units. These planning units will assess water supply and use in watersheds, and recommend strategies for satisfying minimum instream flows and water supply needs. Watersheds are geographic areas also known as Water Resource Inventory Areas (WRIAs) where geographic formations cause all rainwater to flow into a specific tributary, stream, creek, and/or river.
Analysis of the Situation

Both the Skyline shareholders' and the salmon's futures depend on the water of the Methow River: the shareholders need it for irrigation and the salmon for reproduction and livable habitat. Giving up the salmon's rights to water for irrigation purposes violates the Endangered Species Act, while at the same time allowing the salmon to have full access to historical habitat in light of current inhibitions on population growth puts livelihoods at stake. However, allowing salmon free run of home ranges may not allow numbers to rebound as efficiently as would be hoped, given the barriers they face with dams and habitat destruction. NMFS serves as the intermediate party speaking for their rights and implementing policies that will hopefully integrate conservation and progressive development. As an agency advocating for eco-justice, this is unfortunately not always the case.

The ethical issues pertaining to this struggle for water rights include: the fact that Methow residents feel they are carrying the majority of the conservation burden; stewardship of land and resources; introduction of hatchery fish; how far the government should go to encourage local support and involvement in federal conservation programs; as well as those ethical issues highlighted in various water rights documents.

The Takings Clause appears at the end of the Fifth Amendment in the Bill of Rights and states: "nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation." As defined by Armstrong v. United States in 1960, it "was designed to bar Government from forcing some people alone to bear public burdens which, in all fairness and justice, should be borne by the public as a whole." Water rights are not considered part of the takings clause for three reasons:

  1. Most state constitutions establish that water belongs ultimately to the state, not private persons, as is the case in Washington;
  2. Water rights are specifically limited to beneficial uses in that if the water's use does not benefit the public, the right may be revoked; and
  3. Because the public has a major interest in the distribution of limited water resources. So while they might not be eligible for compensation, the Skyline shareholders could be seen as bearing an unfair amount of the conservation burden, given that neighboring shareholders of MVID are exempt from the same federal restrictions as their ditch is built on private land. If the conservation of water and wildlife are under the jurisdiction of the state to preserve for the public good, then it makes sense for there to be equal responsibility placed upon residents of Methow Valley.

As a government agency upholding the ESA, NMFS plays a key role as stewards to the land and resources to promote salmon conservation. From a religio-ethical standpoint, God placed man on earth to serve as stewards and protectors of creation: "And God blessed [man], and God said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.'" (Genesis 1:28) Man's role as stewards, given by God, implies an obligation to protect creation - by overexploiting the creation of God we fail in this assigned duty. NMFS upholds this from a utilitarian aspect, given that they are a sector under the DoC, in order to create jobs for the public and promote sustainable development. Destruction of what we have dominion over leaves us with nothing to have dominion over; alternatively, the loss of salmon as a cultural heritage in the northwest takes with it the inherent value of nature and natural aspects. To the Methow and other Indian tribes, who have already lost much of their cultural heritage, the loss of salmon symbolizes the loss of a critical cultural aspect tying them to nature. Even in Noah's time of the Biblical flood, God instructs Noah to save two of every creature, regardless of charismatic value.

Every creature plays a critical role in and maintenance of creation through the interconnectedness of life. This too serves as an argument for preserving the genetic diversity of salmon born in different streams. God places upon all of creation intrinsic value; the natural world has value in itself and does not exist solely to serve human needs . The salmon existed in Methow Valley long before the arrival of Native Americans and pioneers, and deserve the inherent right to continue existing. But conservation does not have to mean the end of sustainable development.
Regarding the imminent crisis of chinook salmon and steelhead extinction, the possible alternative to quickly rebound numbers would be to release hatchery fish and allow them to interbreed with native populations. As discussed above, this imposes ethical problems by compromising the genetic integrity of genetically discrete populations having evolved in essentially separate ecosystems. Through interbreeding, turning subspecies into one species dilutes biodiversity, violating the NMFA of 1976. This poses biological threats to salmon as well should a disease or predator be introduced that none of the hybrid salmon have evolved to cope with or escape. A further decline in salmon numbers may make them impossible to rebound and imperil the sport fishing industry, an economic repercussion.

As mentioned in the introduction, NMFS made an effort to hold meetings and rally local support and encourage public discussions and opinions on the new water flow limits. Although not required to do so under the ESA, they opted to have the public participate in the administration of new policies. Given that the public did not respond to the invitation, how much more work should be done by NMFS to persuade discussion and opinions? This is an interesting ethical issue raised as government environmentalists tend to be regarded as not caring for the livelihoods of citizens.

Though their intentions are good, public refusal to get involved in policy making regarding salmon conservation may cause future decisions to be made without consultation - although not necessarily ethical to make decisions for the public without their majority consent, NMFS does have the right to do so.

Ethics raised in water policy include mainly the right for state policy makers to make decisions without required consultation with irrigators and majorities impacted by water flow restrictions. Under the State Wildlife Policy for Washington, "No citizen shall be denied equal access to and use of any resource on the basis of race, sex, origin, cultural heritage, or by and through any treaty based upon the same." There is no mention here of livelihoods; farmers understandably require the use of water conveyed from substantial natural water sources in order to subsist. A denial of resource access is here associated with a discrimination of occupation. Plans for habitat protection need only have coordination with federal fish and wildlife agencies, Indian tribes, and the Department of Fisheries fish production programs. Again, no mention of coordination with the people who depend on water. Farmers contribute to the local economy and farming as an occupation provides jobs for families as well as migrant and minority workers. The loss of this industry could therefore have substantial social security ramifications for the area.

In light of the ethical conflicts raised, there are alternatives (bearing their own consequences) for the Skyline stakeholders. They could "sell out," or sell their valuable land to developers. This would be better for the land in terms of water consumption. However, a cap is set in the valley as far as how many houses may be built: one farmer selling his land would mean that other farmers in the future may not have that option should they suffer heightened economic consequences of the reduced water flow minimum. Additionally, selling the land that has in many cases been passed down through the family would mean a loss of livelihoods that has gone back for generations.

Shareholders could "get efficient," or line the ditch in order to reduce the amount of water lost through ground seepage. However, by August the ditch has already been primed by water flowing during the previous months, so lining would be an expensive and probably inefficient option as it would only buy the irrigators another week or so at most, not nearly enough time to harvest another crop late in the growing season. "Biting the bullet" and staying with the current situation would work for some, but not everyone is coping well with the water restrictions. Status quo may be nonviable. A fourth option would be to change the point of water diversion for the Skyline ditch. Although this may increase water supply later, it would also be expensive and possibly mean extensive irrigation networks with a possibility of loss to evaporation.


The moral norms addressed by this case are sufficiency, sustainability, and solidarity . In order for any solution to be viable for salmon and people, there must be an element of sufficiency. Therefore, a minimum but practical water requirement for fish and irrigators should be sought. Sustainability should pertain to rebounding fish populations, as opposed to maintaining current numbers, to perpetuate the genetic health of the ecosystem for the long run. Pumping rivers and streams full of hatchery fish will only pose a short term solution until some outside factor wipes out the homogenous super-population. Sustainable also means non-wasteful consumption of water on the part of irrigators, whether through making efficient current ditch networks or cutting back on the amount of water used daily. Solidarity requires a fellowship of responsibility and an interest on the part of NMFS and shareholders to achieve justice for the salmon and the irrigators.

Lasting social change is anchored in a deep moral imperative, while at the same time lasting biodiversity protection must remain responsive to people's values. People in Methow Valley value their livelihoods as well as salmon, but do feel they deserve the higher end when it comes to compromise with conservation. Life on the planet flows with religious continuity in that any aspect of the cycle disrupted has consequences for the rest of the cycle . Salmon conservation may be seen as a trite problem with regards to the global biodiversity crisis. But their lives and contributions do not exist solely in the Methow. Anadromous, they swim to the Pacific Ocean where they mature, serving along the way as food for predators and keeping in check species lower in the food chain. In rivers they eat the larvae of various insects, including mosquitoes and dragonflies, which consume large quantities of other larvae essential to keeping rivers and streams balanced and healthy. So although the individual salmon may seem trivial, the species and subspecies collectively keep northwest ecosystems in natural equilibrium.

Inherent with the idea of evolution acting upon salmon species for tens of thousands of years is a calming sense of spirituality at the thought of a force greater than anything we could muster driving life towards undisrupted equilibrium. The idea of something adapting into the perfect environment with respect to surrounding environments so that it functions in biological equilibrium is staggering in its complexity. The intrinsic value allotted to these creatures by evolutionary process should not go unwarranted. Any action taken by humans to disrupt this pattern of life denies the basic right of life to persist.

There are many ways in which to approach the biodiversity crisis, whether from diagnostic or ethical standpoints. The continuum of attitudes towards nature begins with a developmentalist perspective, to conservationist, preservationist, and critical eco-justice perspectives. NMFS acts from the spectrum end favoring critical eco-justice and also acts on the moral theory of conservation: they reason that salmon command moral recognition and sentiments, which spur their willingness to act on their behalf. This is also rather zoocentric. While not unethical in approach, this paradigm for viewing conservation negates the needs of people who do exist on this planet and deserve equal representation in conservation issues. Shareholders acting from an anthropocentric perspective believe that salmon conservation as far upstream as the Methow, Chewuch, and Okanogan Rivers may be unwarranted given the manmade barriers facing salmon migrations. Rebounding salmon populations to historical amounts spanning their historical range is not necessary and unwarranted given the needs of individuals irrigating crops. Sport fishermen and seasonal visitors view salmon conservation from a strictly utilitarian point of view: they should be conserved so we can continue to utilize them. This may not take into consideration the loss of genetic diversity and could potentially support release of hatchery salmon as a viable solution to crashing numbers. What we need is a solution that will include compromise from both sides integrated into an ethically holistic alternative . This could possibly include a reevaluation of federal policies on private lands to reflect the fairness implied in the Takings Clause.

Supreme Court Case: Okanogan County v. NMFS

The shareholders appeal went to the Supreme Court of the United States to overturn the rulings given in Washington State that NMFS has the right to limit the amount of water irrigators take from Columbia River tributaries. The question presented before them: Whether the United States Forest Service, when renewing revocable special use permits that authorize use of National Forest land for irrigation ditches, may impose conditions that limit the amount of water conveyed through the ditches to avoid jeopardizing endangered fish. Through careful analysis of water bills aforementioned, the Supreme Court concluded that all of the reasons petitioners offer to support their request for review are based on the incorrect assertion that the instream flow restrictions placed on the revocable right-of-way permits confiscate petitioners' state water rights. The court explained that the government was not taking away water rights because the petitioners retained the ability to divert the water. The question now argued is what is ethical versus what is legal.

Both statutes governing the management of national forests and the terms of the Skyline permit authorize the Forest Service to condition those permits in order to protect endangered fish under the ESA. As water in this case is not considered private property meriting compensation, the shareholders have no basis for arguing the minimum instream flow requirements.


Based on the findings of Okanogan County v. NMFS, there is nothing the shareholders can legally do to overturn the imposed minimum instream flow requirement. There are, however, solutions to this problem that would help to alleviate the effects felt by residents of Methow Valley that include reexamining current water policies on the parts of the state and federal governments. As irrigators belonging to MVID are not prone to the same conservation restrictions as Skyline District, one alternative would be to involve the local government with respect to raising public awareness about irrigation restrictions faced by some Methow Valley residents. The federal government could review its policies, specifically those pertaining to the right to regulate water use on private lands. Water and wildlife both belong to the state of Washington. The state of Washington claims to preserve both on behalf of the public. Preservation on behalf of the public implies the entire public potentially benefiting from or utilizing these resources should partake in their preservation and conservation.

Another solution proposed in Okanogan County v. NMFS is to divert the source point to one not on federal land so as to eliminate the problems faced by diversion through a national forest. Although expensive, this would give the Skyline shareholders the same rights-of-way as shareholders in MVID. As the conflict deals mostly with rights-of-way over federal lands (which are revocable at the discretion of the federal government), while not necessarily better for the sake of salmon recovery, changing the point of diversion would alleviate stress felt by farmers needing to irrigate later in the summer.

As opposed to changes dealing directly with policy and water administration, shareholders could accept the instream flow requirements and find alternative sources of income for later in the summer months. One of these could include rearing hatchery salmon. Although not the best for the genetic integrity of subspecies of chinook salmon and steelhead trout, this may help to increase salmon populations in the Methow, Chewuch, and Okanogan Rivers. At the same time, through the distribution of fishing licenses to tourists from other parts of the state and the country, locals receive direct benefits from salmon conservation through tourist revenue. By empowering the local communities to take control of their livelihoods via conservation, they are less likely to oppose minimum instream flow requirements, which, as mentioned above, are instigated through perfectly legal means. Finding alternative sources of income does not necessitate giving up a way of life but rather supplements it. Encouraging tourism in Methow Valley would also open up opportunities for independent bed and breakfasts and other forms of ecotourism for Seattleites and western Washingtonians wanting to take a vacation from city life.

Concluding Remarks

The state's and federal government's hands are in essence tied when it comes to flexibility with minimum instream flow requirements for irrigators. As ruled in Okanogan County v NMFS, the government acted legally based on written law for instigating flow requirements and are not legally responsible for compensating irrigators suffering from these restrictions. NMFS recognizes that salmon have intrinsic value as well as utilitarian values for the rest of the state and nation, and are acting within their power to conserve critically endangered species. In order to preserve the cultural heritage of the Pacific Northwest, compromise needs to be reached on the parts of federal and state governments, Native Americans, citizens, and preservationists speaking for the salmon. Conservation of salmon does not have to mean the people of Methow Valley and other regions facing similar economical dilemmas relinquish their land and livelihoods. On the contrary, conservation should be embraced as an empowerment of the locals acting to reinstate the rights of salmon to the Columbia River basin. Additionally, local governments need to take a more active participation in policy making so that their views and needs are reflected in laws designed to perpetuate natural resources for the public good.

  1. Unless otherwise cited, factual information comes from Martin-Schramm, James B and Robert L Stivers. Christian Environmental Ethics: A Case Method Approach. Orbis Books, New York, 2003. The Methow Valley Skyline ditch case study derives from Chapter 8, "Taking on Water."
  2. In the case study, this is referred to as the Mazama Ditch Company to preserve the privacy of contributors. The controversy follows that of the actual company, Skyline Ditch Company. Skyline is used in this paper as this is the name legally appearing in federal documents.
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