The Inland Northwest is a special place where we care for one another. As a pastor here in Walla Walla, I have seen firsthand what we can achieve when we work together across our differences.

Neighbors helped neighbors during the flood early last year, and we are all pulling together to support folks in need during the pandemic.

Now, I’m especially heartened to see that Idaho’s Congressman Mike Simpson has a bold vision to invest in the infrastructure of our region and restore Snake River salmon.

His framework is a fresh opportunity to save salmon, honor treaty obligations to Native tribes, and benefit farmers, local businesses and electric ratepayers.

Congressman Simpson, a Republican from a conservative state, is setting aside partisan politics to present a comprehensive plan for healthy Inland Northwest communities.

He understands both the priorities of agriculture communities and that the science tells us that we must restore a free-flowing Lower Snake River to recover salmon runs.

His proposal rests on a key point: before we talk of removing dams to save salmon, we must support the region’s farming economy and ensure our legacy of clean, reliable energy. His way forward finds common ground among the needs of the various communities who call this beautiful land home.

As a Christian pastor, I know we are called both to care for our neighbor and to care for creation. These values need not be in conflict.

I applaud Rep. Simpson’s “both/and” approach, too rare these days, that puts the needs of families and businesses that rely on the river for energy, transportation and irrigation on equal footing with those who rely on the return of robust salmon runs.

Rep. Simpson’s plan includes funding for dam removal, irrigation solutions for farmers, rail and port upgrades, waterfront revitalization, and an expanded clean energy portfolio to replace the power from the four lower Snake River dams.

We have a moral obligation to recover salmon and to support our Inland Northwest communities, and this framework does both.

The faith community strongly values collaboration. We seek to honor our differences while upholding our interconnectedness to work together for a future that benefits everyone.

Rep. Simpson’s proposal unites the region in seeking those solutions. Now it’s our turn — let’s ask our own elected representatives, especially Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, to participate in this long-needed regional conversation.

Rev. Nathaniel Mahlberg

Walla Walla