[env-trinity] Eugene, OR Editorial March 14

Byron bwl3 at comcast.net
Thu Mar 16 14:38:25 PST 2006

Norton's sorry legacy: Plight of Klamath salmon just one example

Published: Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Gale Norton is resigning as secretary of the Interior just as salmon
fisherman and coastal towns from Oregon to California are about to reap the
devastating results of her mishandling of the Klamath Basin water crisis.

Largely as a result of politically motivated intervention by Norton, farmers
ended up winning their fight for water in the Klamath four years ago. Since
then, scientists' warnings that Norton's policies would devastate the
Klamath River's Chinook salmon populations, with dire consequences for the
fishing industry and communities that depend on them, have become reality.


In 2002, an estimated 70,000 salmon died in the Klamath River, after
increased water diversions for agriculture turned the river into a shallow,
warm killing ground for the once-abundant chinook. Now, federal fisheries
officials are considering a total shutdown of fishing along 700 miles of
Northwest coastline, a move that would plunge a gaff through the heart of an
already-gasping fishing industry and cost coastal communities more than $150
million in economic activity.


The Klamath crisis is just one facet of Norton's broadly anti-environment,
pro-business legacy, one that surpasses in scope and audacity even that of
her mentor James Watt, the former Interior secretary in the Reagan


Despite her cheery demeanor and lip service to the cause of conservation,
Norton has worked tirelessly to open public lands to commercial
exploitation. During her tenure, vast expanses of the West have been opened
for oil and gas drilling.

In 2003, Norton entered into an illegal agreement with the governor of Utah
to open 2.6 million acres of protected lands in that state to commercial
development. In exchange, she pledged that no additional lands would be
recommended for wilderness protection.


If she'd had her way, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, one of the last
truly wild and pristine places left on Earth, would have been opened to oil
drilling. But "wild" and "pristine" were never words that held much sway
with Norton, who oversaw an expansion of mountaintop-removal mining in
Norton's administration of the Endangered Species Act revealed a hostility
to the act's primary mission of protecting and rebuilding endangered species
populations. The secretary overruled scientists who warned against reducing
habitat protections for species ranging from bull trout to marbeled

Thanks to Norton, a ban on snowmobiles in Yellowstone National Park was
overturned, despite studies showing that banning the snarling, belching
beasts is necessary to clear the haze and restore peace and quiet to the
crown jewel of America's park system. And thanks to Norton, the National
Park Service is about to scrap its founding mission to give conservation
priority over recreational and commercial activities.


It's hard to believe that President Bush will be able to come up with a
worse candidate than Gale Norton as he begins a search for a new Interior
But it's always dangerous to underestimate the Bush administration's
capacity for wreaking environmental havoc. One need only consider the plight
of Klamath chinook.




Byron Leydecker

Chair, Friends of Trinity River

Advisor, California Trout, Inc

PO Box 2327

Mill Valley, CA 94942-2327

415 383 4810 ph

415 383 9562 fx

bwl3 at comcast.net

bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org





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