Salmon 2100: The Future of Wild Pacific Salmon

The Philosophical Problem in Salmon Recovery

James L. Buchal


Maintaining large runs of naturally spawning salmon in the Pacific Northwest a hundred years from now requires thinking not just about particular policies and their effect upon salmon, but also upon the larger forces that drive those policies. It is the thesis of this chapter that, in the long run, issues of philosophy may be very significant determinants of our success in salmon recovery. In particular, clashes between different philosophies are most often concealed within conflicts over particular salmon recovery policies.

This chapter argues that rebalancing the roles played by these philosophies can restore a more realistic and practical approach to salmon recovery and can produce a Pacific Northwest in 2100 akin to Callenbach’s famed Ecotopia (1975), where humans live in harmony with the ecosystems that support them. The growing imbalances, by contrast, threaten not merely the economic prosperity upon which environmental progress may depend (e.g., Grossman and Krueger 1995), but the very progress of science itself. A review of policy prescriptions in what has become known as the “four H’s” of salmon recovery—habitat, harvest, hatcheries, and hydropower—confirms that unresolved philosophical conflicts are impairing our ability to promote sustainable, naturally spawning salmon runs in the Pacific Northwest.