Friday, February 19, 2010

Feds' Last Shot at N.W. Salmon Recovery Plan?

After more than 15 years in court, federal agencies have continued to put politics before science, circumventing the Endangered Species Act and pushing Columbia-Snake River salmon to the brink of extinction and hurting salmon communities across the Pacific Coast. Judge James Redden in Portland, Ore. has given them one last chance to follow the science and the law.

Read more from the Public News Service:
A federal judge has given the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries Service until today to remand the updates it has made to its federal salmon management plan for the Columbia-Snake River Basin. Judge James Redden isn't convinced the changes are sufficient or legal and wants to see more work on the plan. Conservation groups have been critical of the plan for not doing enough to help fish populations recover, and this week, a group of independent scientists agreed.

Leanne Roulson, president of the Western Division of the American Fisheries Society, which issued the report, says if fish numbers continue to decline, her group has determined the plan isn't aggressive enough to save them.

"We're all about preserving and conserving the fisheries resource, while the political aspects of it are not really relevant to the stances we take or the opinions we put out there."

The plan is called a Biological Opinion (BiOp) and it was originally submitted to the court by the Bush Administration. Rather than toss it out, the Obama team made some additions, known as an Adaptive Management Implementation Plan. But Ed Bowles, chief of fisheries for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, thinks neither team has gotten it right.

"The State of Oregon's concern is that, just including the Adaptive Management Implementation Plan into the BiOp does not even come close to fixing the fatal flaws of the BiOp."

Bowles says recent predictions of the biggest salmon runs in years are mostly hatchery fish, and the wild fish remain on the endangered list.

Judge Redden has said the feds need to follow procedures to comply with the Endangered Species Act, and to use what he calls the "best available science" in making any future changes. He has praised the effort NOAA is making, but says the latest changes could keep the salmon debate in court. He also suggests that the agency work more closely with the State of Oregon and fish conservation groups.
We hope that this time the federal agencies listen. Stay tuned...

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