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Agencies Draw Mixed Reactions

by Mike Lee
Tri-City Herald, December 18, 1999

Buoyed by the pro-dam breaching stance of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, environmentalists and tribes blasted other federal agencies Friday for failing to take a stand against the dams.

"They are refusing to acknowledge the important scientific conclusions that their own reports have made public today," said Justin Hayes, associate public policy director for the national environmental group American Rivers.

Even dam defenders concede the Fish and Wildlife Service's stand - leaked to the press Thursday - is one of the key developments in the battle over the dams. Brig. Gen. Carl Strock, commander of the Corps' Northwestern Division, called it "a fairly strong statement" and noted that it "was not a surprise."

But it did appear to cause some unrest among agencies.

Charles Hudson at the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission said the mood among federal leaders at Friday's press conference in Portland seemed "awkward" and "agitated" as NMFS and the Corps were grilled about not following the lead of the Fish and Wildlife Service.

"We're thrilled to see a federal agency that can finally draw a conclusion based on science, when the other agencies seem unable," Hudson said. "We would consider NMFS a relative newcomer to the endangered species game, and I think that lack of seasoning shows."

The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation were no more enamored with NMFS, saying 20 years of research, planning and tinkering only produced more bureaucracy.

"Once we wade through this electronic and paper avalanche, I think we'll find that the key to saving salmon ... is still what the tribes have always said and done," said Michael Farrow, natural resources director for the Umatillas. "We've got to give back a just a little bit of their home."

Several days before the announcement, interest groups were faxing reams of press releases with their perspectives. Here's what some of them said:

Mike Lee
Agencies Draw Mixed Reactions
Tri-City Herald, December 18, 1999

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