Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Where do we go from here?

After 15 years of fighting tooth and nail in federal court, fishing and conservation groups left U.S. District Court Judge Redden's Courtroom yesterday ready to wait at least an additional 2 weeks for an answer. Will the federal agencies step up and do what is needed to save Columbia-Snake River salmon?

We sure hope so because protecting this iconic species is about more than just saving a fish. It's about family-wage jobs in communities throughout the Northwest. It's about saving a healthy food source, a cultural icon, and a way of life. It's about policy guided by science and the law, not politics. What we really need is for our elected leaders to demand and execute a solid salmon recovery plan for all our rivers. Right now. Today. Not next year. And unfortunately, this plan is nowhere near that.

Outside the federal courthouse, scores of commercial and recreational fishermen came with a clear message, many in their own fishing boats: to remind Dr. Lubchenco and the Obama administration that their jobs matter; that healthy salmon runs mean healthy businesses and strong communities; and that science, not politics, should be at the center of the government’s decisions on this matter.

Check out an interview about the hearing with renowned steelhead guide and Sierra Club Hunter-Angler liaison Jeff Hickman on the Oregon Fly Fishing Blog.

Matt Preusch's Oregonian story this morning says this about Lubchenco's position:
Speaking after the hearing, Lubchenco said she supported the science behind the plan “100 percent.” “We paid attention to the science; we paid attention to the law,” she said.
What Matt doesn't point out is that Dr. Lubchenco and NOAA's plan runs counter to the science and advice of experts in the field — regional Forest Service, Department of Fish and Wildlife and American Fisheries Society scientists.

In October, the Oregon Chapter of the American Fisheries Society wrote a letter to Judge Redden outlining their concerns:
On February 17, 2000, the Oregon Chapter of the American Fisheries Society (ORAFS) unanimously passed a resolution (attached) that breaching of the four lower Snake River dams should be considered as an essential component of the recovery of Snake River salmon and steelhead*. When the revised (2008) Federal Columbia River Power System (FCRPS) Biological Opinion (BiOp) was issued, ORAFS members reviewed it and reaffirmed our position that dam breaching should remain an essential element of salmonid restoration. We write today to further reaffirm this position and suggest that it is not adequately addressed in the NOAA Fisheries’ September 15, 2009 Adaptive Management Implementation Plan (AMIP).

While the AMIP is an improvement to earlier BiOp versions, it contains several crucial, but correctable, shortcomings...
The Oregon AFS is comprised of over 450 fisheries and aquatic science professionals from federal, state, and tribal agencies, colleges and universities, diverse private employers, college students, and retirees.

Some folks said that having Lubchenco in the Courtroom would sway the judge, but I think Jeff Hickman says it best here:
As you know this “plan” is an ugly leftover from the Bush days. It has a couple bits of fluff added by the Obama folks, but it would effectively shovel dirt onto the casket of wild Columbia River salmon and steelhead.

I am confident that the judge will decide this case based on the law and the evidence, period.

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