A DARK LEGACY
John Cole is upset.
John Cole, commercial fisherman, nationally known fishing and
outdoors author, leader of effort to restore spawning striped bass to the
Kennebec River, had this to say recently in his column in the "Falmouth
Forecaster." John has a very special place in his heart for the Kennebec's
wild Atlantic salmon and for that, he has a special place in ours.
John's column. By John Cole
Picture of the week: the Associated Press shot of College of the
Atlantic students and their protest poster at a public hearing in Ellsworth
the question of the Atlantic salmon's federal classification as an
endangered species in Maine.
"Can Angus, Not Salmon" was the poster's message although it was
minority voice at the hearing, it was right on target.
At three public hearings on the issue, voices against the listing far
outshouted the salmon's defenders. And every one of those strident
voices echoed our governor, who has been protesting the listing for most
his second, and last, term. Indeed, it is Angus who has led the charge
against the listing from the very first discussions about the possibility
the Atlantic salmon might become subject to federal "endangered
species" regulations. Angus countered by saying the state could handle
problem and proposed a five-year salmon restoration plan. And then did
next to nothing.
Salmon defenders saw the ploy for what it was and still is: a
delaying game. They sued to have the feds get involved. They sued because
state plan was 90 percent talk and very little action. And they sued because
the wild Atlantic salmon in Maine water is at the brink of extinction, if
not already gone.
So Angus turns up the demagogue volume. He says stuff like, "Over my
dead body." And paints the federal government - the very same government,
the way, that sends Maine hundreds of millions of dollars every year -
as a know-nothing dictatorship that will use the Endangered Species Act
tell us how we can heat our homes. And more. "If: the salmon lovers
their way, Washington will tell you how large a lawn you can have,"
Angus, hitting his demagogic stride.
It's a sorry spectacle. I have known; and liked, Angus for more
than 30 years now. This inexplicable excess, this stupid demagogy, this
pandering to the self-interests of the selfish and ignorant, is a sad sight
indeed. Especially when it could have been so easy to do the right thing.
The tragedy has been compounded by others in public office, most
notably Sen. Olympia Snowe. She's just bright enough to sense that there
more ape-necks out there than thinkers, an equation that can
translate to victory in her next election if she panders to the booboisie,
lift a term from Mencken.
Just think of what might have happened. Suppose Angus had been
less strident, less closeminded. Suppose he'd been more like Angus King
instead of a Newt Gingrich clone. He could have met with the feds, discussed
and negotiated. This is our government we're talking about here, not
Thanks to the Endangered Species Act, many living creatures - including
our national symbol, the bald eagle - have been rescued and restored.
But no, for reasons known only to him, Angus has it in for the
Atlantic salmon. So, ladies and gentlemen of Maine, we preside over the
demise of this most wild and noble creature, this symbol of grace, courage,
and an indomitable will to live, to insure the survival of its species.
has taken incalculable abuse to kill the last of Maine's Atlantic salmon
and our governor has driven home the final spike.
A while back, pundits were pondering this governor's legacy. They
said he had yet to define it. They need wonder no longer. The salmon's
death in Maine waters belongs to Angus. It is a dark legacy indeed.
Bucksport Doctor Challenges Maine
to Save its Wild Salmon
From the Bangor Daily News
By Paul A. Liebow, M.D., Bucksport
Honorable people may disagree on the details - even the possibility - of
preventing the extinction of the magnificent Maine Atlantic salmon at this
11th hour. But there can be no doubt there is high moral purpose in working
together for its salvation. While the ''listing'' of a species as "endangered''
is based only on science, Endangered Species Act programs are carefully
crafted to give economic considerations major influence.
''Incidental take'' of organisms is allowed, and alternative habitat conservation
plans encouraged. Solutions will certainly involve correcting detrimental
factors other than their Down East environment. We must not let doomsayers
dominate our thinking, but rather all work together to find mutually acceptable
solutions. The best plan will require the synergy of local knowledge, expertise
and cultural and economic sensitivity in the state plan with the financial
backing, commitment and experience of nationally renowned experts available
to federal agencies. But it will take the clout of the ESA to coordinate
the alphabet soup of state and federal agencies that have so far failed
us. And it will take the delicate surgical touch they have used in hundreds
of other cases where they had to balance the needs of local economies with
the needs of endangered species. If we work at cross purposes on this, we
will have only the mutually assured destruction of the last remnant populations
of wild Atlantic salmon in the United States.
Although Gov. Angus King usually has a ''can-do'' attitude and in-depth
knowledge about most of his initiatives, he has been misled by his advisers
into a defeatist attitude on this one. The lack of personnel and funding
for the state plan has created a self-fulfilling prophecy, rationalized
by saying there is no ''pure species'' left to save, anyway.
I respectfully disagree with the notion that salmon are not endangered because
millions live in aquaculture cages. Summarizing the issue as ''Portland
mice are the same as Waterville mice'' is an uncharacteristic oversimplification
by the governor. House mice scuttle out from under the refrigerator, munch
a few scraps and scuttle back. The salmon is a truly amazing creature, whose
marvelous adaptation is most visible as it jumps 10 feet over a waterfall,
but whose complex and almost entirely hidden lifestyle has evolved over
many millions of years. It is finely tuned to home river chemistry and food
chains, changing food preferences and protective coloration multiple times.
Its entire physiology shifts during migration from fresh river waters to
salty northern seas. Even its parasites can't make the change and are replaced
by new ones. Young salmon must somehow determine when to leave the nursery,
find feeding grounds thousands of miles away, grow to maturity and return
home with enormous precision. They often mate successfully and return to
the sea several times
While the common wisdom is that salmon find their natal river by scent close
in, cues such as the Earth's magnetic field and/or the angle of the sun's
light probably direct longer migrations. American salmon swim east and European
salmon west to Greenland. Salmon time their lives to match local water flow
and time of ice-out. These behaviors, called ''instinct,'' are deeply encoded
in magical molecules of DNA. Mixing genes from other rivers obviously leads
to destructive errors in navigation and distorts many other finely tuned
behaviors. Species are populations separated at first by behaviors that
lead to such ''reproductive isolation.'' Further genetic divergence is then
inevitable. There still are a few salmon successfully returning to Down
East rivers. The genes and the DNA making these a ''distinct population
segment'' as defined by the ESA are still there and salvagable. DNA studies
prove it. Saving these populations preserves genetic diversity that may
hold resistance to swim bladder sarcoma, infectious anemia and other diseases.
It preserves the innate behaviors that initially enabled their foothold
in each unique river.
Saying they should be sacrificed because past failed programs allowed the
introduction of some foreign genes is ridiculous. Genes are exchanged commonly
in nature. There is no ''pure race'' of any organism because new genes are
constantly created by evolution. The fact that more genetic admixture has
not occurred is probably because non-native stocks and descendants of escaped
hatchery fish have the wrong orienteering skills, and swim off into oblivion
rather than returning to mix genes as adults. Unfortunately, their fry often
have ''hybrid vigor'' and outgrow and extirpate wild salmon fry from their
We must avoid the mistakes of the past. I challenge everyone to put aside
preconceived notions and work together to save this spectacular creature
placed here by the Almighty. We must save this keystone species of our
rivers that is such an indelible part of Maine's and America's natural and
No one must ever go down in history as the person who caught the last wild
salmon. Support the listing at the upcoming hearings and by contacting your
Paul A. Liebow, M.D., lives in Bucksport.
Bangor Daily Supports Badly Needed Funding For Atlantic
A Dec. 30 editorial in the Bangor Daily News instructs Maine lawmakers to
put their money where their mouths are and support Rep. Ed Dugay's legislation
to provide badly needed funding for the volunteer watershed councils created
under the state's Atlantic salmon conservation plan.
Click here to read the editorial.
Northwest Commercial Fishermen urge ESA protection
for United States Atlantic Salmon
Opinion Column in Bangor Daily News, Dec. 29, 1999
By Glen H. Spain
[Glen H. Spain is the northwest regional director of the Pacific Coast
Federation of Fisherman's Associations, the West Coast's largest
organization of commercial fisherman.]
No, Gov. King, the sky is not falling. Predictably, opponents of
federal government's latest attempt to protect Maine's imperiled wild
Atlantic salmon, including the governor, have reacted with
inflammatory rhetoric but little fact. They falsely claim that protecting
Maine's heritage salmon under the Endangered Species Act would
somehow ''destroy Maine's economy'' or alternatively they invoke
wild conspiracy theories about ''outsiders'' coming to turn Maine into
a national park. Hogwash!
Go to full text of Mr. Spain's column.
Salmon Commission Closes All Maine Waters to
Directed Fishing for Anadromous Atlantic Salmon
On Dec. 22, 1999 the Maine Atlantic Salmon Commission voted 2-0 to close
all directed angling for salmon. Click here
to read full statement of Salmon Commission Director, Fred Kircheis.
Using Internet for business and commerce
can eliminate need for old dams.
A Washington, D.C. non-profit predicts that reduced energy costs from the
increasing use of Internet commerce could be enough to "replace"
the power produced by up to 21 power plants nationwide. Such energy savings
could easily eliminate any "public need" for many of the dams
clogging Maine and other rivers and preventing their restoration.
From Boston Globe, page A-11, Dec. 14, 1999. To read the whole story click
FKS and Maine Council Atlantic Salmon Federation Support Kennebec
Salmon Restoration Proposal. Click HERE to learn
Conservationists respond to Gov. King's insistence that Maine
has no wild Atlantic salmon. Check Trout Unlimited's
web page for lots of good info. Also check FKS
letters for our recent responses.
Salmon Spawning in Kennebec A Big Question Mark in 1999
Due to time constraints and high water this fall, FKS redd counts of
the lower Kennebec tributaries has not been as complete as we would like.
So far, the results have not been good. Only one salmon was sighted in Bond
Brook this year; a redd count of the lower brook by the Maine Atlantic Salmon
Commission found no redds. The upper reach has not been examined. No salmon
have been sighted in Cobbossee Stream. Togus Stream has yet to be examined.
What does it all mean? We're not sure frankly. However, the lack of spawning
activity in areas that have held spawning salmon in previous years may indicate
a very poor return this year. It also could indicate that salmon decided
to "explore" the 18 miles of accessible Kennebec River above Augusta
this fall and have spawned elsewhere. We just don't know.
Downtown Augusta Mural Celebrates Kennebec River Salmon
Children, parents and business leaders teamed up this fall to create a beautiful
outdoor mural just a few hundred feet from Bond Brook along Water St. in
Augusta. The mural shows the Kennebec River, Bond Brook, the local neighborhood
and the State House in the background. Best of all is the mural's depiction
of a wooden sign next to Bond Brook which reads "Salmon" and points
upstream. Clearly the local community thinks highly of the Atlantic salmon
of the Kennebec and the importance of Bond Brook to their survival.
· Citizens Support Bond Brook Protection and Enhancement at
Capital Riverfront District workshops.
Citizens and businesspeople attending planning workshops in Augusta in November
for the Capital Riverfront District expressed strong support for protecting
the natural character of Bond Brook as it travels through downtown Augusta
to the Kennebec. Many ideas, such as the creation of nature trails along
the brook, and the purchase and protection of key undeveloped land parcels
along the brook have been put on the table. Click HERE
to learn more about Friends of the Kennebec Salmon's proposals to the District
for the Kennebec and Bond Brook. Please let us know your ideas. Click HERE
to view our maps of the Bond Brook watershed.
· Re-licensing of Madison/Anson dams.
These two back-to-back dams on the Kennebec in Madison and Anson are owned
by Madison Paper Industries and are up for re-licensing. Full upstream and
downstream fish passage for Atlantic salmon will be needed at both dams
in the near future. More than 50 percent of the Atlantic salmon habitat
in the Kennebec River basin lies directly above these dams in the Carrabassett
River drainage and the main-stem Kennebec below the Solon Dam. FKS and the
Maine Council of the Atlantic Salmon Federation are participating fully
in the re-licensing process. Click HERE to
see maps of the upper Kennebec drainage.
· Mapping our wild Kennebec salmon habitat
Aided by grants from the Atlantic Salmon Watershed Collaborative and the
Davis Conservation Fund, FKS has developed a series of habitat, land use
and property ownership maps for Bond Brook and Togus Stream. Click
HERE to reach the map section. The creation of these maps also allowed
us to create very detailed presentations of the locations of Atlantic salmon
redds found in the lower Kennebec tributaries this fall. We would very much
like to thank Great Works Internet of Biddeford which has given us a free
website and e-mail service as part of their effort to help non-profit organizations
in Maine get on-line. Our e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
Questions, info., gossip, comments?
Please address e-mail to:
or regular mail to:
Friends of the Kennebec Salmon, PO BOX 2473, Augusta, ME 04338.
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