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Feds Release Salmon Recovery Plan

by Jon Duval
Idaho Mountain Express, September 16, 2009

(David N. Seelig) The future of sockeye salmon, like this one released into Redfish Lake last week, could be impacted by the Obama administration's recently released plan for salmon and steelhead recovery in the Pacific Northwest. More than 700 returned from the Pacific Ocean to the Stanley area this summer, but conservationists say the increasing numbers of spawning fish are still far from actual recovery. The Obama administration has released a new salmon recovery plan for the Pacific Northwest that calls breaching of dams along the lower Snake River "a contingency of last resort," and fish conservation groups are portraying the plan as a mere rehashing of the one by the Bush administration.

On Tuesday, the Obama administration unveiled its plan to the public, announcing that it found the 2008 plan legal and scientifically sound. However, that was not the opinion reached by conservation groups that are part of a lawsuit against the old plan, which they claim doesn't do enough to help improve wild salmon and steelhead stocks.

The federal salmon recovery plan, called a biological opinion, is being challenged by 15 conservation and sport fishing organizations, the state of Oregon and the Nez Perce Tribe. The groups object to the fact that the plan does not prioritize removal of dams along the Columbia and Snake rivers, which they consider the main hindrance to salmon recovery.

"We appreciate that President Obama took the time to look at this, but we see little more than a veiled attempt to pass off the old Bush plan as a new one," said Greg Stahl, assistant policy director at Boise-based Idaho Rivers United. "This is a president who promised decisions based on science and law, and Idaho salmon have yet to see any indication that he is doing that. Salmon need real recovery now."

The new plan does include an "insurance policy for the fish" that includes contingency measures in the case that fish stocks experience a significant decline. They include increased predator controls, harvest controls and more hatcheries.

"It's a wonder that the federal government can't create a scientifically credible biological opinion consistent with its responsibilities to uphold the basic tenets of the Endangered Species Act," Stahl said. "Recovery plans must chart a course toward measurable recovery of a species. This plan, unfortunately, fails to do that for wild Snake River salmon and steelhead."

Jon Duval
Feds Release Salmon Recovery Plan
Idaho Mountain Express, September 16, 2009

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