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4-H Flap Forces NMFS Change

by Mike Lee
Tri-City Herald, December 17, 1999

The National Marine Fisheries Service already knew to watch its P's and Q's when it comes to politically sensitive endangered fish.

Now it's got to worry about its H's.

All four of them.

Or wind up in jail.

The federal fish agency got crosswise with the U.S. Department of Agriculture two weeks ago over NMFS' attempt to help the region understand the four critical aspects of fish recovery - habitat, hydropower, hatcheries and harvest.

It was with much fanfare that NMFS unveiled what it called the Four-H paper in mid-November, careful always to spell out the number "so people won't think it's an association of young farm children," said Brian Gorman, NMFS spokesman.

NMFS' work took shots from every side in the fish debate.

Then it took one more. USDA and the national 4-H club leadership didn't think that spelling out the number was enough to avoid confusion.

The name and cloverleaf symbol of the 4-H club is "beloved by millions of Americans who have participated in the youth development program," said Ami Neiberger, spokeswoman for the National 4-H Council in Maryland. She said she wasn't aware of the federal fish flap, but noted the 4-H name is protected by an act of Congress and there's a complex approval process through USDA for its use.

As it was, things got a bit nasty over H's.

"We are subject to fines and jail terms for using this name," said an internal memo sent around Northwest fish management offices a few weeks ago and obtained by the Herald.

"Evidently, the club is trying to get some funding in D.C. and the reference to the salmon issue in the Northwest is hurting them," the memo said.

It went on to direct an immediate end to Four-H references and explain that documents with the off-limits title had already been mailed to "several thousand" people.

"It just gets weirder and weirder," said Chris Zimmer, with Save Our Wild Salmon in Seattle.

So today, NMFS will release a revised and renamed version - the All H paper.

Even that may not please everyone. Some are sure to continue complaining that the paper doesn't do enough to address a very important H - humans.

Others, it seems, want a name more indicative of what they think of the document. They suggest taking the first two letters of three H's and combining that with the H and the O in 'hydro.'

It would read like this: Ha-Ha-Ha-Ho.

Mike Lee
4-H Flap Forces NMFS Change
Tri-City Herald, December 17, 1999

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