The Administration's No-plan Salmon Planby Editors
Seattle Times, February 5, 2006
The Bush administration desperately wants to change the subject as a tenacious federal judge in Oregon snaps at its backside over the operation of the Columbia River hydro system and its effect on salmon.
Late last month, James Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, announced in Portland the administration wants to cut salmon harvests and close some hatcheries that are harming wild stocks.
Throughout the Northwest, and especially in Washington, the news was greeted with a collective "Huh?" State and tribal fishing managers have been working on those two issues for years, with solid progress.
Harvests have been steadily reduced and subject to continuing oversight. Almost two years ago, the Hatchery Reform Project released a four-year study that included a thousand recommendations for improving hatchery operations. Hundreds of the ideas have been embraced, and the work continues.
The Washington Legislature has been paying for and promoting efforts to restore salmon runs since 1998. Work around Puget Sound and on the coast is proceeding through a variety of initiatives, strategies and councils that carry salmon restoration in individual watersheds and tailor solutions to local conditions.
At best, the White House proposal is ill-informed and out of date. At worst, the plan is an attempt to distract attention from the problems of reconciling salmon survival with dam operations and the continuing need to focus on habitat restoration.
Salmon must have healthy streams to return to, and managing the balance between a growing population and a healthy environment is an endless challenge, but it is work in progress.
If the federal government wants to see how harvest and hatchery can be aligned, ask about the successful efforts to clip the fins of hatchery fish so anglers can differentiate them from wild stock. The escapement of wild salmon has increased over the years.
As the federal government gets up to speed on hatchery improvements, let it be mindful of the key findings from the Hatchery Reform Project:
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