Monday, August 10, 2009

Wild Salmon & Steelhead News - Aug 2009

This is the start of a very important week for the endangered wild salmon and steelhead of the Columbia and Snake Rivers, and the communities that rely on them. At the end of this week, on August 14, the Obama Administration will report to Federal Judge James Redden on their next moves for complying with the Endangered Species Act, and protecting and restoring Northwest wild salmon and steelhead.

This issue of WSSN is part-call-to-action and part-update:

A) CALL TO ACTION – Please contact Department of Commerce Secretary Gary Locke: With only a few days left before the Obama Administration announces how they will address the salmon crisis on the Snake River, please take a moment to contact Department of Commerce Secretary Gary Locke. Formerly the governor of Washington State, Locke now leads the Department of Commerce. NOAA-Fisheries is one of the agencies within the Commerce Department. This makes Sec. Locke NOAA-Fisheries Administrator Jane Lubchenco’s direct boss. It also means that Sec. Locke will have a lot of influence on the Federal Salmon Plan that emerges from the NOAA-Fisheries at the end of this week. He needs to hear from salmon and fishing advocates today!

Contact Secretary Locke HERE - America needs good science, good jobs, and healthy salmon runs!

Three months ago, attorneys for the new Administration asked the judge overseeing the litigation over Columbia and Snake River Salmon Plan for additional time to review the 2008 Bush-era Plan that it inherited earlier this year. The deadline for that review is this Friday.

At this point, it is not clear what path the new Administration will choose. Will it stick with the failed status quo of the past or bring people together to work on an effective, forward-looking science-based solution? We will have to wait until Friday to find out. They seem to have three basic options:

(1) It could submit the original plan to the court in its current form. But that seems unlikely, since Judge Redden made plain in a mid-May guidance letter that he would be very unlikely to approve of the 2008 Salmon Plan in its current form.

(2) It could submit the 2008 Plan to the court with revisions in an attempt to satisfy the judge. Salmon and fishing advocates are highly skeptical that such a move would succeed. The judge, in his mid-May letter, identified a number of substantial improvements that would be needed in order for him to find the plan lawful under the Endangered Species Act, including a look at lower Snake River dam removal. The deficiencies of the current plan are so profound that a major overhaul would be needed. Modest tweaks will be inadequate.

(3) Time for a Collaborative Stakeholder Process? The Administration could, in recognition of the plan’s severe inadequacies, decide instead to change course and undertake an approach that many – including newspaper editorial boards, three former governors, a growing number of senators and representatives in Congress, businesses and organizations - are calling for. The Administration should convene an inclusive, settlement process (involving e.g. fishermen, farmers, utilities and energy consumers, tribes, states) to work together to craft a legal, science-guided salmon plan that both restores endangered salmon and steelhead and ensures that local, affected communities benefit at the same time.

Lots of Counsel to the President
Just in the past week, President Obama and his salmon team have received lots of advice about what to do with the failed 2008 Plan that they inherited. Here are a series of links to review some this advice:

(1) Three former Northwest governors sent a letter to President Obama urging him to abandon a 2008 Bush administration biological opinion (BiOp) for the Columbia-Snake rivers, and pull stakeholders together to create a solutions settlement table. Read more on their letter to the President.

(2) Nationally-recognized lawyer and natural resources law professor Charles Wilkinson advised President Obama that, after many years of federal failure, sleight of hand, declining salmon populations, he needed to get this important decision right, including removal of the four lower Snake River dams.

(3) New York Times, Boston Globe, Buffalo News, and Eugene Register Guard Editorials in support of solutions and dam removal options:

(4) Kevin Richert, Editorial Page Editor for the Idaho Statesman, offers his perspective to the President – strongly encouraging a break from the past and the establishment of a Northwest stakeholder process.

Go HERE for more complete list of links to lots of the advice for the Obama Administration from scientists, organizations, businesses, United State Senators, and many others.

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