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Bush Lambasted for Record on Salmon

by Les Blumenthal, Scripps-McClatchy Western Service
The News Tribune, February 27, 2003

WASHINGTON - Environmentalists and tribal leaders released a report card Wednesday that gave the Bush administration failing grades in implementing a plan to restore endangered salmon runs.

The groups again raised the possibility of breaching four Snake River dams or taking legal action.

"We are headed into a confrontation that need not occur," said Bruce Babbitt. As Department of Interior secretary in the Clinton administration, Babbitt helped broker a 10-year salmon recovery plan that was designed to avoid dam breaching.

Administration officials, however, said that it was way too early to tell whether the recovery effort was working and that all signs point to improving conditions for the salmon runs.

Brian Gorman, a spokesman for NOAA Fisheries in Seattle, formerly the National Marine Fisheries Service, said the environmentalists' annual report card was "at the best disingenuous and at the worst just wrong."

The plan, adopted in 2000, called for a number of steps before dam breaching would be considered, including improving water quality in the Columbia and Snake rivers, improving spawning and rearing habitat along the two rivers and their tributaries and adjusting dam operations to increase fish passage.

"Dam removal is one of the options that can come back on the table," said Pat Ford, executive director of Save Our Wild Salmon, which compiled the report card.

Babbitt also said lawsuits may be looming, comparing the situation to the early 1990s when a lawsuit over the spotted owl shut down the region's federal forests to logging.

Les Blumenthal, is a Washington, D.C., reporter for Scripps-McClatchy Western Service
Bush Lambasted for Record on Salmon
Tacoma, Washington The News Tribune, February 27, 2003

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