Shadowy Future

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I just overheard the boys, now five and three, chatting in the bath. “Jack,” Leo said, “dinosaurs are dead. People have never, ever seen them alive.”

Saturday, while on a little adventure in The Columbia River Gorge, we found ourselves face to face with a ten foot long sturgeon named Herman. He’s the freak show at the hatchery and seeing him contained in a little pond concerned Leo so much it was instantly time to go.

Earlier, we watched salmon and sturgeon float by us as they navigated a fish ladder along the Columbia River. Large, dark shadows approached the glass in the viewing room. These ancient looking fish would gently glide into view, emerging, it seemed, from another era.

While the white sturgeon is still listed as “least concern”, some, like the pallid sturgeon in the Missouri River Basin, are now considered “endangered”. Lack of spawning can be attributed to the channelization and damming of the rivers. These fish, 175 million years in the making, may go away forever in our lifetime.

The idea that we’ve altered the planet so much that we’re entertained by people counting fish raised in hatcheries as they climb up concrete fish ladders at a hydroelectric dam is troubling. An animal whose ancestors swam the waters while the T. Rex roamed the earth may soon be gone. It seems the next generation may have as much of a chance of seeing a wild sturgeon or a wild salmon as seeing a dinosaur.

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all content © Tim LaBarge 2010

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