Epistemic Closure Watch

On a daily basis, the Andrew Breitbart family of Web sites posts a lot of poorly researched, badly reasoned commentary on all sorts of subjects, all crafted to flatter the ideological prejudices of the audience. Take Big Government, where a recent post bemoaned the fact that Nevada is one of the western states that is receiving money to help restore salmon populations.

Hmm…Last time we checked, Nevada was landlocked and didn’t remotely touch the Pacific Ocean or any of the tributaries of the Columbia River (which run extensively through Idaho.) Now, how would Nevada get to be eligible for grants to protect the Pacific Salmon. Do the fish have a gambling addiction?

Well, no, actually. The reason, in this case, is that Nevada long enjoyed access to Pacific salmon, as anyone can discover by spending less than a minute on Google. That's how long it took The Dish to come across this informative article:

Salmon were so important that 19th century Nevada law prohibited dams without fish ladders. So when Peterson built a dam on the South Fork of the Owyhee that prevented chinook salmon from reaching this part of northeastern Nevada, local sportsmen demanded that the state fish commissioner force him to tear it out. "An effort will be made to have the obstruction removed," the Tuscarora Times-Review reported May 3, 1889.

But Nevada's fish-passage law, still on the books, ultimately failed to save the state's chinook runs. In the early 1900s, private power and irrigation companies started building permanent dams in Idaho and Oregon, blocking the return of salmon and steelhead to this far-flung stretch of the Columbia River Basin. The federal government joined the dam-building frenzy, and Nevada's last salmon vanished after the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation closed the gates on Owyhee Dam in December 1932. Any hope of modifying those dams to restore fish passage ended when the three massive Hells Canyon dams were added to the main stem of the Snake River between 1958 and 1967.

Nevada's love for its native wild salmon nevertheless survived, and the state's sportsmen now are campaigning for their return.

Whether the costs and benefits of salmon restoration in Nevada make it worthwhile to spend money on the project is a matter of legitimate debate. Ignorantly mocking legislation when a quick Google search demonstrates the grounds for your criticism are nonsense? That's doing a disservice to your readership, and worth highlighting here because while every Web site makes mistakes – as Dish readers well know – this is typical behavior at the Big Breitbart sites, and all too often follow-up posts that would set readers straight are never published.