Salmon Case Returnsby Jim Redden
Portland Tribune - June 4, 2004
Is the federal government changing the rules regarding salmon recovery?
That’s one of the central questions behind a complex lawsuit that returns to federal court in Portland on Friday. Eleven environmental groups are suing the National Marine Fisheries Service over the federal government’s inability to account scientifically for the damage caused to endangered wild salmon by Columbia River dams.
U.S. District Judge James Redden gave the government an extension until November to devise a new biological opinion taking the dams into account. But a controversial new salmon policy may change the definition of which salmon runs are endangered.
A different U.S. District judge, Michael Hogan, ruled three years ago that wild coho salmon on the Oregon Coast should not be considered endangered because hatchery fish on the coast have thrived. That decision set the precedent for the government’s newly announced “hatchery listing policy,” which requires scientists to consider hatchery fish while reviewing the health of endangered wild salmon.
Environmental groups fear that the government may begin counting hatchery fish as if they were wild fish, thus inflating fish counts and slowing recovery efforts.
Hatchery supporters, meanwhile, argue that hatchery fish should be counted because scientifically sound hatcheries add to salmon recovery, rather than hurt it.
Redden will hear from attorneys for both sides in a steering committee meeting set for 8:30 a.m. today, on the 16th floor of the Mark O. Hatfield Courthouse in downtown Portland.
Currently, the government is only considering removing special protections for one of the 26 salmon species in the Pacific Northwest that are considered to be endangered.
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