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Conservationists Petition to Consider Only Wild Salmon for ESA

by Associated Press
Capital Press - May 3, 2002

GRANTS PASS, Ore. (AP) -- Environmental groups asked the federal government to protect only wild salmon under the Endangered Species Act to avoid the legal pitfalls of lumping them with hatchery fish.

The April 25 action was intended to protect Pacific salmon from the court ruling that temporarily removed Oregon coastal coho from the threatened species list last year and prompted a series of petitions to drop protection for more than a dozen other salmon runs including those in Idaho.

"We believe this is a simple, appropriate and, indeed, elegant way of dealing with the confusion caused by the so-called Hogan decision," Jeff Curtis, Western conservation director of Trout Unlimited, said during a telephone news conference.

Curtis said he expected the petition to accelerate the policy debate over the value of hatcheries in restoring self-perpetuating wild fish populations.

"We are saying that the purpose of the Endangered Species Act is the conservation of natural populations in their native habitats," said Jason Miner, conservation biologist for Oregon Trout. "If they decide not to do it, it's reviewable in court."

Last September, U.S. District Judge Michael Hogan found that the National Marine Fisheries Service erred in protecting only wild Oregon coastal coho as a threatened species when it had included hatchery fish in the same population segment known as an evolutionary significant unit.

Environmentalists succeeded in restoring Oregon coastal coho to the threatened species list while they appeal the ruling.

The ruling prompted the National Marine Fisheries Service to begin a systematic review of 20 of the 26 protected salmon runs in the West that include hatchery and wild fish. It also reviewed its overall policy on hatcheries.

"It has always been our position that hatchery fish have some role to play in the listings," NMFS spokesman Brian Gorman said. "But we are still wrestling with what that appropriate role is." The new hatchery policy is due this fall with the review of the 24 salmon runs a few months after that.

The salmon runs named in the environmental petitions are: Snake River spring and summer chinook, Snake River fall chinook; Puget Sound chinook, lower Columbia River chinook, upper Willamette River chinook, upper Columbia chinook, southern Oregon-northern California coho, Columbia chum, Hood Canal summer-run chum, upper Columbia steelhead, Snake basin steelhead, lower Columbia steelhead, and mid-Columbia steelhead.

by Associated Press
Conservationists Petition to Consider Only Wild Salmon for ESA
Capital Press - May 3, 2002

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