The Maine Woods

A Publication of the Forest Ecology Network

 Volume Four     Number One                           Late Winter 2000

Report of the Commission to Study

the Atlantic Salmon

To His Excellency Horace A. Hildreth, Governor of Maine,

When the first settlers came to this country they found that in the spring virtually all the rivers from New Jersey northward were alive with countless thousands of salmon that were making their way from the mysterious depths of the sea to their spawning grounds in the upper reaches of these various rivers.

For a great many years they and their descendants enjoyed this harvest that a kind and thoughtful Providence had brought to their doors.

But these forbears of ours were unmindful of their blessings. With a thoughtlessness that seems shocking to us, they completely destroyed these fabulous spring runs of fish.

They did it by building dams that were insurmountable, thus preventing the fish from reaching the spawning grounds and so procreating their kind. They did it by making the rivers the dumping grounds for all kinds of waste through which the fastidious salmon would not swim.

Gradually the Atlantic Salmon, the most beautiful and one of the most desirable of all fish, disappeared from the American scene. Today it is extinct in the United States except for a few salmon runs in some of our eastern Maine rivers.

This disappearance of the salmon is a shocking condemnation of man's stewardship over the bountiful riches of nature with which the Almighty has endowed us. It belongs in the same category as the despoliation of our forests; as the man-created erosion that has ruined forever hundreds of thousands of acres of our land; as the extinction of many birds, animals and fishes that once populated our country.

We of Maine are the sole arbiters of the Atlantic Salmon's future in this country. We will restore our salmon runs to something approaching their former glory or we will allow the last salmon to die and thus bring to an end ignominiously the history of this magnificent fish in our nation.

If we decide upon the latter course we will be holding ourselves up to the contempt of all men from this time forward. We will be looked upon as being stupid, ignorant and totally irresponsible; as being persons God has trusted unwisely.

This report will point out the material advantages that will accrue to Maine if our salmon runs are increased. The evidence presented is incontrovertible. But even though not a single dollar was to be returned for the money spent to preserve the salmon for posterity we would have to do it or admit that in our dealings with God's creatures we are morally derelict. Our duty is self-evident. We cannot evade it, we cannot temporize with it, we cannot pass it off as something that is insignificant. We will be known to historians as a people with the wisdom and foresight to preserve this magnificent fish or we will be known as barbarians who were unmindful of their blessings or too ignorant to preserve them for our children. There is no middle course in the matter.

Commission to Study the Atlantic Salmon
Frank L. Baker, Chairman
W. Lloyd Byres, Secretary

Other Articles About Atlantic Salmon in This Issue
Quisling Rivalry
Atlantic Salmon, Extinction by Politics?
Atlantic Salmon Hearings 
Testimony at Salmon Hearings
A Fish Tale of Two States

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