The God Squad isn’t a new Marvel spinoff. Nor is it the latest chart-topping Christian rock band. But it just might be another nightmare for ESA-listed salmon and steelhead on the Snake River.
Southeastern Washington farmer and Columbia-Snake River Irrigators Association (CSRIA) board member Darryll Olsen recently appealed directly to the Trump transition team, asking it to invoke the Endangered Species Committee—or God Squad—to rule on the Snake River dams debate.
The committee is so named for its ability to decide whether a federal agency, or agencies, can be exempted from responsibilities to protect listed species. Or in other words, its controversial power to let a species go extinct—especially one unfortunate enough to have become an economic hinderance. Brief history lesson: The G-squad was called into use in the Pacific Northwest with the northern spotted owl in the 1980s. The squad ruled to forgo the wide-eyed bird in favor of allowing logging on some BLM lands. The ruling was later reversed.
As for Olsen and his band of peeved upstream irrigators, they want the committee to give Snake River salmon and steelhead recovery an exemption that would rule out dam removal. Because, after five federal court decisions said that current recovery efforts do not meet ESA requirements, they’re fed up. “It is driven by a biased court decision in what has become a salmon-recovery industry over the last 20 years,” Olsen says. “It is not how the Endangered Species Act was meant to be used.”
But wait, the ESA is meant for exactly that. Fact check says, The purpose of the ESA is to protect and recover imperiled species and the ecosystems upon which they depend.
Olsen’s problem is that not everyone agrees with him. And moreover a God Squad exemption is tough to get, especially for species so economically and culturally important to the Pacific Northwest such as salmon and steelhead.
Joseph Bogarrd, executive director of Save Our Wild Salmon, says, “I’m certain that the public at large strongly opposes this narrow and short-sighted approach. Rather than calling for a God Squad to protect costly, deadly, outdated dams, Mr. Olsen should be working with other stakeholders to find real solutions that can work for salmon, farmers, fishermen, and taxpayers—and honor our 150-year old treaty obligations to Northwest tribes.”
Tom Bie is the founder, editor, and publisher of The Drake. He started the magazine in 1998 as an annual newsprint publication based in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. He then moved it to Steamboat, Colorado (1999), Boulder, Colorado (2001), and San Clemente, California (2004), as he took jobs as managing editor at Paddler, Senior Editor at Skiing, and Editor-in-Chief at Powder, respectively. Tom and The Drake are now both based in Denver, Colorado, where The Drake is finally all grows up(Swingers, 1996) to a quarterly magazine.