Activists say Bush Administrationby Matthew Daly, Associated Press
WASHINGTON — For the second year in a row, the Bush administration has failed to meet federal goals to save endangered salmon in the Pacific Northwest, activists said this week.
In a report card, conservation and fishing groups again gave the administration an "F," saying officials have failed to implement nearly three-quarters of the measures required under a salmon recovery plan adopted in late 2000.
The Save Our Wild Salmon Coalition said the administration must make drastic improvements to pass a mandatory federal review scheduled for this fall. If it falls short, officials should consider removing dams on the Snake River, group members said.
Brian Gorman, a spokesman for National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries, the federal agency in charge of restoring salmon, called the report card bogus. "It's rather odd to call it a report card since it seems to be issued before we have a chance to take the final exam," Gorman said, referring to the September review.
The salmon coalition said officials had not met numerous standards imposed by the plan, including requesting or receiving necessary funding, reducing water temperatures in the lower Snake River below the recommended 68 degrees, and securing recommended water flows to help move salmon to the sea.
Since taking office in 2001, Bush has allocated only about half the estimated $900 million per year needed to implement the salmon plan, the report said. The funding situation is likely to get worse, said Pat Ford, executive director of Save Our Wild Salmon. In its budget request for the next fiscal year, the administration is proposing a 5 percent cut in salmon spending, he said.
In a preliminary report issued last year, the fisheries agency said it was implementing 176 of 199 actions required under the salmon plan. The agency has rejected dam breaching and instead is attempting to restore streams where salmon spawn, reform hatcheries to reduce harm to wild fish, and increase fishing restrictions.
Former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt, an adviser to the conservation group, said he was extremely disappointed with the Bush administration's salmon recovery efforts. "At what point does failure to comply constitute a violation of the Endangered Species Act?" Babbitt asked. "I'm not in the business of soliciting lawsuits, for the most part, but it's a real issue."
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