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By Bobbie Peyton for Roots of Change

California salmon feed the country but their habitat is threatened to a perilous degree. To understand how that came to be, we have to acknowledge the complex, interconnected reality of our food system.

In California, the current salmon crisis can be traced to the early 1900s when the state chose to use its finite water supply to develop its urban centers and industrial agriculture, rather than maintaining its free-running inland waterways (i.e. rivers and creeks). The dams created to bring water to cities and farms did so at the expense of maintaining healthy aquatic ecosystems, and blocked salmon spawning routes.

Indeed the appropriation of abundant amounts of water and the creation of 1,400 dams transformed California into a “cornucopia,” the largest agricultural state in the U.S. But this choice to favor agriculture and developing cities still haunts us today.