North America's biggest freshwater fish slips toward extinction

Harmed by the effects of the Libby Dam, the Kootenai River sturgeon haven’t spawned for 35 years now-

North America’s biggest fish slips toward extinction. By Matthew Brown. Associated Press.

The Libby Dam on the Kootenai River, Montana. Copyright Ralph Maughan



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  1. mikarooni Avatar

    Forget about the implications of this species being driven into extinction. Just take it to a personal level and think about not being allowed to spawn for 35 years. If there was ever an irrefutable definition of cruel and inhumane treatment, wouldn’t that be it?

  2. stanley Avatar

    Things like this are quite frustrating. There is not enough waterflow for the sturgeon, an endangered species; the science has identified the problem, but sufficient water isn’t let out of the dam to help the fish. I assume that the dam operators know the maximum flow that can be released without flooding Bonner’s Ferry. So what’s the problem here?

  3. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    The reservoir behind the dam is international and it was built under a treaty with Canada. I wonder if there are treaty constraints?

  4. Cobra Avatar

    I worked with a guy that grew up in Bonners Ferry years ago. He used to show me old picturesof some of the sturgeon they caught out of the river when he was a youngster. You would not beleive the size of some of the fish they used to catch there years ago. It’s really sad to let something like these great fish go by the wayside.

  5. stanley Avatar

    Hi :

    Either the treaty or it would impact the energy production to release more water. It seems that the endangered species act would trump that, but that is probably naive thinking on my part. And it could just be bureaucratic foot dragging by the Army Corps…that’s not unheard of either.

    It is a shame that the sturgeon go away

  6. Ken Cole Avatar

    Flows are not the only impact this dam has, nutrients are also blocked from the lower river as well. These nutrients are essentially kept in the reservoir and the waters below are colder too.

    There is another victim of this dam and that is the burbot, which is the only freshwater cod. I remember coming across an old IDFG fishing regulations booklet which indicated that there had been a limit of 26 burbot per day on the river. Now it’s rare that even researchers see them.

    I worked on the Kootenai sturgeon project during the summer of 1994 and I only saw one sturgeon, which was estimated to be one of the youngest fish in the river at 20 years of age, and a few eggs on the mats which were placed on the bottom of the river in areas where they were suspected of spawning. It appears that not much has changed in the last 15 years other than an ESA listing of the fish.

    Maybe a listing of burbot is in order too.

  7. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears


    I would agree 100%, although I am not in fisheries, to allow these to go extinct would be plain wrong, there has to be work done to ensure these two species are not lost.

    I remember living in the NW and the many pictures of the sturgeon that I saw taken out of the Columbia, in addition to the sturgeon, my own grandfather captured to help stock the hatchery at Bonneville Dam, these are magnificent fish…what has happened to them is a travesty.

    I do hope there can be something done the ensure their survival.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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Ralph Maughan