Three Columbia River fish species have been enlisted as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Millions of dollars have been invested by government agencies, boards and conservation groups in an attempt to boost fish populations, but they have failed.
The Habitat Farming Enterprise Program may have a chance at accomplishing what the others could not. Fruit trees planted close to spawning fish have badly degraded the fish habitat. Replacing the fruit trees with a vegetative buffer zone could lower water temperatures and improve spawning habitat, leading to increased fish populations. Compensating the orchardists for these improvements and their lost income from reduced production could be accomplished in several ways. State licensing for fishing, payments from hydropower plants that kill 2 percent of the fish passing through their projects, and donors will to pay for “existence value.”