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Commentaries and editorials

Idaho Ignores Own Experts in Salmon Filing

by Idaho Rivers United
Environmental News Network, January 30, 2002

Idaho Rivers United criticized Idaho Attorney General Al Lance and Governor Dirk Kempthorne today for ignoring the state's own biologists when they filed legal documents defending federal salmon recovery plans that won't work.

Idaho quietly filed legal documents earlier this month to intervene in a lawsuit on the side of the National Marine Fisheries Service's salmon recovery plan, known as the "Biological Opinion." Idaho Rivers United is a plaintiff in the case against NMFS. Neither Lance nor the Governor made a public announcement of the filing.

"We all need to ask the Attorney General and Gov. Dirk Kempthorne just what they're doing defending a doomed salmon recovery plan that the fed's own scientific review and Idaho's biologists say will fail," said Bill Sedivy, Executive Director of Idaho Rivers United. "This is a prime example of the Governor and the Attorney General ignoring the best available science from their own state."

"Just who is Al Lance representing here?" Sedivy asked. "Idaho has the most to gain from salmon recovery and here we are supporting a doomed federal plan that no other state in the Northwest will defend."

Ironically, it was the state of Idaho that got the salmon and steelhead recovery debate going with a lawsuit in 1994. In that case the State successfully challenged NMFS over its 1993 biological opinion governing salmon recovery, claiming the federal document did not adequately protect Idaho's salmon and steelhead. The current Biological Opinion is part of the response to the original lawsuit filed by Idaho.

Now it seems the State has switched sides in the dispute.

"It's important to note here that the state's own experts on salmon and steelhead, biologists at the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, do not support the main conclusions of the current Biological Opinion," said Bert Bowler, Director of Native Fisheries for Idaho Rivers United.

Beyond Idaho's expert biologists, the federal agency's own scientific review panel says the plan will not work.

The Independent Science Advisory Board appointed by NFMS and the Northwest Power Planning Council to review salmon science announced last month that none of the region's four main plans (including the NMFS Biological Opinion) for restoring salmon is likely to succeed. The 11 scientists on the panel wrote: "the ISAB believes the overall answer to the question of whether the four documents will lead collectively to salmon recovery actions that have a high chance of succeeding is probably no."

"Once again, Idaho's political leaders are playing politics with science, and once again, Idaho's precious salmon and steelhead could lose," Sedivy said. "This intervention is a waste of taxpayer money, in addition to being contradictory to past legal actions and the needs of Idaho's fish and wildlife."

Idaho Rivers United
Idaho Ignores Own Experts in Salmon Filing
Environmental News Network, January 30, 2002

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