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Sawtooth organization gives Rep. Simpson award for work on wilderness, salmon

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The Sawtooth Society, which formed 25 years ago to protect the mountainous region, gave U.S. Congressman Mike Simpson its inaugural “Champion of the Sawtooths” award Thursday.

“It's a great honor to get this award from the Sawtooth Society in recognition of what we've been able to do, and the work that we've been able to do to help them do their job,” Simpson said. “The real work goes to those people that have been out here on the ground doing the work and a lot of people that have come before us, whether it was Frank Church or Jim McClure or Cecil Andrus, any of those people that did great work before us. So, you know, the honor really belongs to them.”

Simpson convinced various ranching, recreation and environmental groups to support his 2015 bill that designated the Boulder and White Clouds mountains in central Idaho as wilderness areas.

The organization also noted he’s now spearheading a nearly $34 billion initiative that could involve removing the lower Snake River dams to save the system’s salmon and steelhead from extinction. The plan would also give financial benefits to the industries that depend on the dams.

“In central Idaho is the highest, coolest spawning grounds in the lower 48,” Simpson said. “The problem is, right now the fish can’t get to it.”

On Thursday, the Biden administration, conservation groups and the Nez Perce Tribe, among others, agreed to ask a judge to extend a pause in a lawsuit over the impacts 14 federal dams have on the region’s fish.

The Biden administration said the stay is an important step forward in resolving the dispute and allowing affected parties to work out solutions.

Simpson’s initiative seeks to end such litigation over salmon, but he said extending the pause on the lawsuit might not be the best move.

“I think we ought to have the judge make a decision so we know where we’re going with it,” he said.

Idaho Senator Jim Risch again pushed back against dam removal Thursday.

In a news release, he said federal scientists’ latest draft report, calling breaching “essential” for fish restoration, lacked transparency.

Risch, along with Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Rep. Rush Fulcher (R-Idaho) and other Pacific Northwest Republicans, sent letters Thursday to four federal agencies involved with the report outlining their concerns.

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I cover environmental issues, outdoor recreation and local news for Boise State Public Radio. Beyond reporting, I contribute to the station’s digital strategy efforts and enjoy thinking about how our work can best reach and serve our audience. The best part of my job is that I get to learn something new almost every day.

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