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N.W. Salmon Recovery Plan Back in the Frying Pan

 

November 23, 2009



Portland, OR - Years of debate about how to restore endangered Northwest salmon and steelhead may be coming to a close, depending on what happens today in a Portland courtroom. Federal Judge James Redden will hear the U.S. government's reasoning behind its most recent fish recovery plan, and plan opponents also will testify.

Conservation and fishing groups say the plan doesn't do enough to save the fish and relies too heavily on emergency backup measures if wild fish numbers continue to decline. Their attorney, Todd True with Earthjustice, says the plan doesn't do enough to save the fish and relies too heavily on emergency backup measures if wild fish numbers continue to decline.

"The triggers the government is proposing are really not to be sure we actually restore salmon to the river - they're catastrophic failure triggers. It's a little bit like saying, 'Okay, we're up on a high wire, and if we fall off, we're going to start trying to build a safety net - 10 feet before we hit the ground.'"

Former Oregon State University professor Jane Lubchenko, who now heads the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the federal agency responsible for the fish plan, will be at the hearing. She has called the plan "flexible...and effective." But it's up to the judge to decide if this recovery plan meets the requirements of the Endangered Species Act; he has rejected three previous proposals. Redden may issue a ruling before the end of the year.

Commercial fishermen and guides from several Western states will attend the hearing, including steelhead guide Jeff Hickman, a member of the Sierra Club. He says this plan is no better than the other federal plans Judge Redden has thrown out, because native salmon are still at risk, along with the economies of fishing communities.

"Right now, you're hearing about these large returns coming in, but that's just not accurate. Huge percentages of our fish runs right now are subsidized hatchery fish that taxpayers are paying for. Meanwhile, entire commercial fisheries up and down the coast are being shut down."

The hearing begins at 10 a.m. today at the U.S. Courthouse, 1000 S.W. Third Ave., Portland.

 

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