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Kempthorne Signs Agreement on Species Protection

by CBB Staff
Columbia Basin Bulletin - October 17, 2003

Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne last week formalized an agreement with federal, tribal, and private partners he says will provide a framework for the long-term protection of threatened endangered native fish species and their habitat.

The agreement, brokered by Kempthorne's Office of Species Conservation, outlines a wide range of long-term conservation activities aimed at reducing irrigation-related practices known to limit the productivity of species like bull trout, steelhead, and salmon. It runs through the end of 2004.

The agreement, signed last week in Challis, also provides the opportunity for participating landowners and other irrigators in the upper Salmon River Basin to receive certain assurances of protection from federal enforcement of the Endangered Species Act, while conservation measures are pursued on their property.

"This agreement and its predecessor, the Lemhi River Agreement, demonstrate Idaho's commitment to the conservation of fish and fish habitat," Kempthorne said. "When you talk about salmon and steelhead conservation in the Upper Salmon you have to recognize the private landowners are the key."

In 2001, a similar agreement was brokered for irrigators in the Lemhi River Basin resulting in more than 100 successful conservation projects in that drainage -- such as irrigation ditch modification and stream bank stabilization.

"Partners in this effort have agreed to continue to work together in a creative partnership to establish a process for voluntary compliance with ESA, while encouraging the implementation of measures to ensure the conversation of listed species such as bull trout, salmon, and steelhead," said Bill Shake, special assistant to the regional director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "This agreement will provide short-term benefits for aquatic species in the area while we continue to work with our partners to develop a long-term conservation strategy."

U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo praised the Upper Salmon River agreement. Crapo chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife and Water, which holds jurisdiction over many of the issues contained in the agreement.

"I know the others in the Idaho delegation join with me in congratulating Gov. Kempthorne on the signing of this important conservation agreement," Crapo said. "The funding we have diligently labored on for salmon recovery will find a good home with these projects and I congratulate those on the Lemhi and Salmon Rivers who are involved with the demonstration projects benefiting both ranchers and anadromous fish."

Kempthorne said the partnership between federal partners like the USFWS and NOAA Fisheries, and local property owners and irrigators demonstrated on this agreement is essential for reaching similar arrangements in the future.

"With this agreement we are able to incentivize land owner participation," Kempthorne said. "For too long, the Endangered Species Act has hung heavily over the Upper Salmon Basin's ranching and farming community. This agreement reflects my belief that incentives and certainty, not threats and litigation, are the keys working to with land owners for the benefit of Idaho's anadromous runs."

CBB Staff
Kempthorne Signs Agreement on Species Protection
Columbia Basin Bulletin, October 17, 2003

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