9th U.S. Circuit Court
by Editorial Board
The correct decision about the protection and recovery of endangered salmon was made on Monday by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. But a more crucial factor in this issue is the Portland man with whom the San Francisco court agreed.
His name is James Redden. In addition to his role as U.S. District Court judge, he's also the best friend of endangered fish in the Northwest. Before describing Redden's role, it's important to point out his impartiality and nonpartisanship. Redden was equally tough on members of the Clinton administration, whose plan for salmon recovery he also rejected in 2003. Then, two years ago, Redden correctly struck down a Bush administration plan that was full of flaws. Among the plan's shortcomings was the opinion that, because Columbia River dams were built before the Endangered Species Act became law, they were part of the environment. That declaration is well nigh impossible to repeat with a straight face.
Redden's ruling is what the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld on Monday. But, like Redden, the court had a little more to say. Under the Bush administration's plan, "a listed species could be gradually destroyed, so long as each step on the path to destruction is sufficiently modest."
That would be like the public conceding, "As long as none of us kills too many salmon too quickly, none of us will have to shoulder much blame for their extinction."
The court response, written by Judge Sydney R. Thomas, continued: "This type of slow slide into oblivion is one of the very ills the ESA seeks to prevent." And there are 13 species of salmon and steelhead that are threatened or endangered and have to negotiate Columbia River dams.
Among many complex solutions, perhaps the simplest is to simply run more water over the dams to help the fish migrate. That's what Redden has supported, but federal officials and others protest any reduction in water used to generate electricity.
While the solutions are explored, it's good to know that yet another bad "recovery" plan has been ruled flawed and forgettable. Four agencies jointly announced on Tuesday that they would keep trying. That's the best approach.
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