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.