BOISE (AP) — A little-known federal program that avoids publicity to protect from looters the thousands of Native American sites it's tasked with managing has been caught up in a big net.

The Federal Columbia River System Cultural Resources Program tracks some 4,000 historical sites that also include homesteads and missions in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana.

Now it's contributing information as authorities prepare a court-ordered environmental review concerning struggling salmon and the operation of 14 federal dams in the Columbia River Basin.

A federal judge in May urged officials to consider breaching four of those dams on the Snake River.

Fish survival, hydropower, irrigation and navigation get the most attention.

But at more than a dozen public meetings in Idaho, Oregon, Washington and Montana, the cultural resources program has equal billing.

Comments are being taken through Jan. 17.

More From News Talk KIT