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Salmon Crowd Heckles Federal Fish Managers

by Linda Ashton, Associated Press
Spokesman Review, January 27, 2000

Proposed rules to save salmon, steelhead concern East Side landowners, farmers

An often hostile and sometimes profane crowd jeered and heckled federal fish managers at a public hearing Wednesday night on proposed protection rules for 14 populations of Pacific salmon and steelhead.

The National Marine Fisheries Service has advertised the proposals as an innovative approach to fish conservation that will give state and local governments with their own NMFS-approved management plans a chance to avoid federal regulation and liability under the Endangered Species Act.

The same proposals include prohibitions against harming, killing or harassing protected fish with maximum penalties of a year in jail and a $50,000 fine.

The rules have been criticized as a far-reaching power grab by the fisheries service that endangers the property and water rights and livelihoods of many in river-dependent Eastern Washington.

The rules, expected to be adopted later this year, will apply to watersheds and rivers in an area covering 159,000 square miles in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and California.

Wednesday night's meeting here, one of 15 scheduled in the four affected states, drew 400 people. A Washington State Farm Bureau protest rally prior to the meeting attracted about 175 people, carrying signs with such slogans as "Liberty and justice for salmon. What about humans?"

Opponents of the so-called 4(d)rules, from an authorizing section of the Endangered Species Act, accused the government of failing to consider the effects of its actions on people.

As NMFS fish managers Kate Vandemoer and Rob Jones outlined the proposals, they were repeatedly shouted down with obscenities, boos and insults.

"This is not about salmon. It's about government control," said Steve Appel, a Palouse wheat farmer and president of the Farm Bureau.

"We all like salmon. We aren't against salmon. What we are against are rules that go too far ... that threaten our livelihood and threaten us with fines and jail."

Don Kilpatrick, an Oroville bus driver, said he attended the meeting because his hobby is hard-rock gold mining and he believes mining, timber and agriculture are all under attack.

"I believe water rights are human rights," he said.

Many urged the fisheries service to use its regulatory power to stop or further limit fishing.

Using what he said was NMFS' own data, Kenny Nelson, of the Washington Association of Realtors, said that of every 10 fish in the ocean, six are caught in nets in the ocean. Four come up the river, and 50 percent of those go to Indian tribes under the historic Boldt decision. Of the remaining two, predators take one.

"We have one left. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that we've got to stop the harvest out there to save the fish," said Nelson, of Grandview.

The rules do provide for exemptions, for example, for Washington loggers who follow new state timber harvest regulations and urban developers who follow guidelines that Portland Metro is putting together.

Representatives of several timber companies that operate in Washington spoke in favor of the proposals. Mac Porter, a retired forester from Yakima, said he supported the proposals, noting that it took two years of negotiation to get the new logging rules through the Washington Legislature, which approved them in 1998.

Linda Ashton, Associated Press
Crowd Heckles Federal Fish Managers
Spokesman Review, January 27, 2000

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