[env-trinity] Federal Government Slashes Fish Protection In
danielbacher at hotmail.com
Wed Aug 17 15:42:16 PDT 2005
Federal Government Slashes Fish Protection In California, Northwest
The federal government late on August 12, in what critics characterized as a
Friday night dump, released the final version of its controversial
critical habitat proposal for 19 stocks of salmon in California and the
The proposal effectively strips protection for thousands of miles of streams
- reducing the number of river miles protected from 46,500 to 9,800 miles in
California and from 121,000 to 23,500 acres in Washington, Oregon and Idaho
and drawing the wrath of fishing and conservation groups.
The designations include a separate rule for 7 species (also called
evolutionarily significant units or ESUs) listed in California and another
one for 12 species listed in Washington, Oregon and Idaho. In California,
the final proposal includes Central Valley spring run chinook salmon,
California coastal chinook, southern California steelhead, south-central
California coast steelhead, central California Coast steelhead, Central
Valley California steelhead and northern California steelhead.
NOAA Fisheries touted the proposal as reaffirming its commitment to salmon
and steelhead recovery. These designations support our extensive salmon
recovery efforts and promote important voluntary and collaborative efforts
important to protecting salmon, said Bill Hogarth, NOAA Fisheries Service
The final policy contains exclusions for private landowners in the Northwest
who have agreed to voluntary conservation efforts on their land. The
Administration believes strongly in providing incentives for private
landowners who are already protecting species voluntarily and these
designations recognize their hard work, said Bob Lohn, head of the NOAA
Fisheries Service northwest region.
The release was originally expected on Monday, August 14, but critics
accused the administration of releasing the report on Friday night as an
apparent effort to avoid media and public scrutiny of the proposal. The
Friday night dump has become a favorite of the Administration as a means
of avoiding press on issues it knows will be unpopular, said Zeke Grader,
executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermens
The proposal is definitely unpopular with conservation groups, who criticize
the proposal for eliminating badly needed fishery habitat above dams where
anadromous fish populations historically migrated and spawned.
My big problem with the plan is that it excludes areas where salmon have
traditionally migrated, even in stretches where they have existed until just
recently, said Grader. If we want to recover salmon and steelhead, we have
look at restoring these fish to their former habitat.
Grader also said the proposal overstates the costs of restoration without
looking at the considerable benefits of fish restoration to local economies.
In looking at critical habitat, they did the reverse of what the Army Corps
of Engineers has done, he quipped. Whereas the corps pushed water projects
through Congress by looking at the benefits without talking about the costs,
NOAA Fisheries looks at the costs of restoration without looking at the
Earthjustice, National Wildlife Federation, and Trout Unlimited released a
white paper on salmon and steelhead critical habitat entitled, "A Place
Called Home: Why Critical Habitat is Essential to the Recovery of Salmon and
Steelhead (www.tu.org) several days prior to the proposals release.
The report analyzes how the administration's critical habitat proposal
threatens salmon recovery in several ways, including eliminating protection
for vitally important but currently unoccupied habitat and further rolling
back habitat based on economic considerations. The report also said the
proposal trades habitat protection for policies and plans that were "never
intended to protect salmon."
The administration proposal would remove habitat protection under the
Endangered Species Act in favor of inadequate protections under the
Northwest Forest Plan, the Oregon Plan for Salmon, and forest plans in
Washington and California, among others, the report stated.
The Karuk Tribe gave a mixed review to federal government proposal. The
tribe is happy that tribal lands are exempted because sovereign nations are
able to manage the habitat themselves, said Craig Tucker, coordinator of
the Klamath River Campaign of the Karuk Tribe, now working with the Yurok,
Hoopa and Klamath tribes, fishermen and environmental groups to remove dams
on the Klamath.
However, we are unhappy that NOAA Fisheries failed to designate as critical
habitat areas above dams where we would like to restore fish to. Theyre
protecting the current range of salmon and steelhead, but our goal is to
restore them to their historic range."
The ESA requires the federal government to designate critical habitat for
any species listed under the ESA. According to NOAA Fisheries, critical
habitat is defined as specific areas on which are found physical or
biological features essential to the conservation of the species, and which
may require special management considerations or protection.
This reduction of protections for salmon and steelhead is just one more
hurdle that recreational anglers, commercial fishermen, Indian Tribes and
environmentalists have to go through to bring endangered and threatened fish
back. The failure of NOAA Fisheries to protect salmon and steelhead comes at
a time when many fish populations in the Pacific Northwest and California
are in severe crisis.
Tribal and government biologists are predicting the Klamath River fall
chinook run this year to be one of the poorest on record, due to the impact
of the catastrophic juvenile and adult fish kills of 2002. Even worse,
Salmon River spring run chinook returns this year were the lowest on record,
the direct result of low warm flows on the Klamath caused by change in water
policy that favors agribusiness over fish.
Likewise, a team of state and federal scientists is studying an
unprecedented crash of the California Delta food chain a development that
fish advocates believe will hurt salmon, steelhead and other anadromous fish
populations that depend on the Bay-Delta estuary as a nursery.
The administration is making it much more difficult for us to restore fish
by releasing this proposal, said Grader. Its so disappointing that we
have to constantly fight the agencies to get them to do their job of
protecting the fish. But we will bring the salmon and steelhead populations
back because the public and the law are so clearly on our side.
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