One of my favorite things to do during the summer is to visit an old fashioned car show. The Klamath Kruise is an annual favorite — gazing upon all those old restored cars and trucks as if they just rolled off the assembly line. It's a lot of fun looking, hearing, smelling and remembering (and wondering) what it was like "back then".
But when it comes to nature, can it be restored, like a 1952 Studebaker? Can nature be rolled back the way it was 50 years ago? How about people, can we be restored? Now thinking about it, can cars really be restored? In the case of cars, they are a non-living, man-made creation. Therefore the answer is yes, cars can be restored because all the parts can be swapped out with originals. But with living organisms, such as people and nature, restoration is not quite that simple. While face lifts, hair regrowth, tummy tucks and botox try to roll back the clock, it's a mere illusion. After the procedure is done, we are still the same age, no matter what we've had "altered" to try and say otherwise. In the end reality rules the day. The same can be said about nature. It is silly to think we can roll back the sands of time and pretend it is 1911 by removing this or adding that. It is 2011 and nature has adapted and moved on. Moreover, nature is such a complex set of systems, sub-systems and super-systems, the idea that humans can alter something and restore nature back to what it was 100 years ago is a very utopian notion.
For a moment, let's suppose we could restore the Klamath river. This is the cry of environmentalists as well as those in favor of the KBRA (note that “Restoration” is part of the agreement's name). Who decides the optimal date for restoration? Are we aiming for 50 years ago, 100 years, 200 years? Also who gets to select the the criteria for restoration? Is it maximum water flow? Is is it optimal salmon runs? Is it reaching a certain level of algae and bacteria parts per million? Also who pays for this "optimization?" And in the end, do the ends justify the cost?
Just like getting botox, river restoration is an illusion. For example, the number of people who use, live and depend on the river is far greater today than it was 100 years ago. Do we need to "restore" the population as well by decreasing the human usage of the river to what it was 1911? What about weather patterns? They are constantly changing and are not the same as they were "back then". Do we find a way to alter the weather? As you can see man's effort to "restoring" the river doesn't get you back to yesteryear. While the attempt could produce a particular result and make people feel good, it also is likely to create hundreds of new problems in the process. Additionally, restoration will not last long because there are several forces greater than man's efforts that will make the river what it wants. You may have silky smooth face but that neck still looks like a gobbler.
Let's quit the silly talk. It is really fish restoration people are after, but that just doesn't sell well to the average Joe. The argument is that if we don't remove the dams, It may be that a fish species dies out. That's sad proposition, but it would probably happen anyways, with or without the dams. There are forces at play that are far greater than whether the dams exist or not that will determine a particular species survival. That's the way of nature (ask the dinosaurs). It's also possible if we do nothing that fish populations could increase. No one knows for certain. When it comes to biologists whose jobs depend on studying such subjects, it's amazing how myopic and alarmist they can be. Everything is a crisis and if we don't act now, catastrophe looms. Really?!? Amazing the fish have "survived" nearly 100 years now since the hydro-electric dams were built on the Klamath river. Maybe if we would quit messing around with biological opinions from so-called experts the fish would flourish once again. Isn't that how their populations got to be so great to begin with — without man's intervention?