State of salmon

Posted on | January 25, 2011 | 2 Comments

The best quip of the President’s State of the Union address: “… the Interior Department is in charge of salmon while they’re in fresh water, but the Commerce Department handles them when they’re in saltwater. And I hear it gets even more complicated once they’re smoked.”

Nice joke, good speech, but the laugh is a short-lived one for Californians, raising as the gag does the suggestion that in streamlining the way we manage salmon it would somehow be possible to tilt power from the agency that protects the fish when they migrate (Commerce) toward the agency that drains rivers of the fresh water that they need to breed (Interior).

Or vice versa.

This taxpayer for one is happy that Commerce is there to demand that the Endangered Species Act be invoked when salmon are imperiled by freshwater diversions to farms and cities. At the same time, this Californian is dependent on fresh water supplied by Interior. As such, the curious thing about the laugh line is that it aimed at bureaucratic waste instead of waste of natural resources. Isn’t the real issue water conservation?

As he summed up our challenges, in this the President was surely right. “We will argue about everything.” Click here to read the text of the speech.

UPDATE 1/26/2011: Evidently I was not the only one to find the salmon joke less than hilarious. This press release is just in from Earthjustice. Read it for an elegant clarification of who does what concerning the iconic fish of the Pacific.


2 Responses to “State of salmon”

  1. Melina Watts
    January 26th, 2011 @ 1:41 pm

    Ms. Green,

    Thank you for the informative article. The Earthjustice piece was helpful.

    Note that the comment that stuck with me is tha the made no reference to climate change. I was really hoping that the “Sputnik Moment’ might have to do with the whole idea of reducing/keeping the ppm to below 350.

    Melina Watts

  2. EmilyGreen
    January 26th, 2011 @ 2:21 pm

    Melina, as always an apt comment from one of the region’s most dogged protectors of our watersheds. For more on Melina’s work, go to

    The absence of our environmental challenges also struck me. Hard to have a love-in with a Congress newly dominated by a party that still questions the existence of climate change. For the administration’s position on climate change, go to:

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