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Commentaries and editorials

House OKs Bill for Pacific Salmon

by Associated Press
Environmental News Network, June 14, 2001

WASHINGTON The House approved a bill Wednesday that would authorize $600 million to Western states and Indian tribes to pay for Pacific salmon recovery efforts.

The bill's author, Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., said salmon species are a key part of Pacific Northwest culture, particularly in coastal towns that were founded around the commercial fishing industry. The legislation now goes to the Senate.

"Many of these towns have been devastated by the collapse of salmon populations," Thompson said. "If we restore salmon populations, future generations like their ancestors can enjoy and prosper" from the salmon.

The federal money would be spread over three years. Fifteen percent would go to qualified tribes already involved in efforts to restore threatened and endangered Pacific salmon. The remaining money would be allocated for states with coastal or inland waters that are home to the salmon Alaska, Washington, Oregon, California and Idaho.

The states could use the money for a variety of regional and local projects to improve salmon habitats, including efforts to plant vegetation near waterways, restore watersheds or remove roads whose runoff can foul streams.

The states would be required to match what the federal government spends on these restoration efforts.

Twenty-six species of Pacific salmon and sea-run trout are listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

Federal agencies typically get tens of millions of dollars each year to help restore the fish in the budgets for the Army Corps of Engineers, National Marine Fisheries Service and for a salmon treaty between the United States and Canada.

This bill authorizes additional money for local projects and helps to coordinate the activities of a myriad of agencies working to restore salmon.

"It is not always easy to coordinate this effort. It is hard and expensive," said Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore.

Northwest lawmakers of both parties said the legislation is step in the right direction.

"While we are determined to fully protect the rights of states and localities to chart their own destiny, we also believe that the federal government has an important role to play in this process," said Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash.

Similar legislation passed the House last year but died when the Senate failed to act. This session, 66 Republicans and Democrats cosponsored the House legislation, which passed 418-6.

The Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations celebrated the bill's passage.

"This is an important investment in the restoration of tens of thousands of salmon industry jobs in economically depressed coastal communities," said Glen Spain, Northwest regional director. "The broad support for the bill shows that we are getting serious about salmon restoration."

The bill is H.R. 1157.

Associated Press
House OKs Bill for Pacific Salmon
Environmental News Network, May 16, 2001

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