Salmon Advocates Take Dim View
PORTLAND, Ore. - An "insurance policy for endangered Northwest salmon" is what the Obama administration says it is offering, after taking a few months to review and revise a plan drafted by the Bush administration to save native fish. Fishing and conservation groups, critical of the Bush plan, had hoped for major changes to it. However, Obama's staff has determined that the plan, known as a biological opinion, is basically sound - although some emergency measures have been added, that would kick in only if fish numbers decline.
To Bill Shake, former U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service assistant regional director, the revised plan is a disappointment.
"It seems to fly in the face of the promises that the president made, regarding the use of sound science to drive policy decisions - unlike the previous administration, where we know that politics are really calling all the shots."
Shake points out that, by the time the fish are in greater trouble, emergency measures to save them may be too little, too late. As a former manager of the regional fisheries program, he was one of many who expected a bigger overhaul of the plan. Over the years, three previous plans have been thrown out in federal court for not doing enough to protect the fish. Now, Shake thinks this one may meet the same fate.
"If you look at the actions that they've proposed, and they're pretty minor tweaks to the previous draft, all of the actions they tweaked that affect power revenues - and that's spill and flows for fish, and we know those are critical - they dialed those down."
The new plan doesn't say much about breaching four dams on the Lower Snake River, which fishing and conservation groups say would help restore native salmon and steelhead populations. It is now up to U.S. District Court Judge James Redden in Portland to rule on whether the new plan can be implemented.
The revisions, called an "Adaptive Management Implementation Plan" (AMIP), can be viewed online at www.salmonrecovery.gov.
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