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        Idaho | Activity 2.3: Salmon, Humans, and Rivers: Lives Intertwined

        Unit 2: Geography

        Over the course of this Unit, students will come to understand that the physical environment is not static. Through geological processes and human action, seemingly fixed aspects of the landscape are constantly changing and have always been doing so. As the earth influences how people live, how people live in turn effects the earth.

        Lesson Summary

        Students learn through video descriptions how human-made decisions regarding the environment and businesses impact Idaho’s fishing industry. This information is incorporated into a brief student debate on the differences between natural and man-made resources and their effects on Idaho. 

        Standards: 2.2: Explain how human actions modify the physical environment and how physical systems affect human activity and living conditions.

        413.35 Identify goods and services in early Idaho settlements.

        Time Allotment

        20-30 minutes



        1. Tell students they will be watching two videos to help them understand how salmon were affected in different ways by human-made decisions. Instruct students to
        2. Play the videos:

          1. Nature | Salmon: Running the Gauntlet – Humans and Salmon [5:42]

            1. This video introduces the impacts human-made dams have had on salmon and the fishing industry in the Northwest.

          1. Nature | Salmon: Running the Gauntlet – Restoring Streams [6:54]

            1. This video tells some success stories when rivers are restored to their natural state.

        1. After watching the videos, have students define the following terms: overharvest or overfishing, fish hatchery, fish ladder, adaptation, and diversity. Write their answers on the board as they go. The answers are in the key below, and also available in a printout.

        1. To conclude the lesson, divide the class into two, three, or four groups to debate a topic. Pick one topic for them to debate. Ask each group to spend 5 minutes preparing their points for the debate. Have the students pick one person in their group read them aloud. Ask the students to take notes on two similar points made and two different points made in the debates.

          Possible topics include:

          • Consider the pros and cons of having dams and of removing some of them.

          • Are fish hatcheries a suitable substitute for natural rivers and wild salmon? Why or why not?

          • How do these decisions affect the quality of life for you as an Idahoan?

        Answer Key

        • Overharvest or overfishing – when fish stocks are reduced to below acceptable levels. This can happen in water bodies of any size such as ponds, lakes, or oceans.

        • Fish hatchery – place or building where fish are artificially bred, starting with hatching and then rearing the fish through the early life stages

        • Fish ladder – a series of pools built like steps to enable fish to bypass a dam or waterfall

        • Adaptation – regarding fish, when fish make changes in order to adapt to its environment

        • Diversity – regarding fish, the diverse or different fish that inhabit salt (oceanic) and freshwater ecosystems. Diversity exists in where they live, how they look and adapt to the environment, how they breed, and even how they eat.

        For more on economic data on fisheries and fishing tourism in Idaho today, click here.



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