Salmon Groups Ask Redden
by Rocky Barker
When Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo turned down the call by Nez Perce Chairman Brooklyn Baptiste for setting a "solution table" for Columbia-Snake salmon-dam talks it was clear there was nothing going to happen soon unless U.S. District Judge James Redden made it happen.
So the tribe and other salmon advocates recently requested a settlement judge be appointed by the Court to help improve the process of finding solutions to save endangered Columbia and Snake River salmon and steelhead. The federal agencies responded to the request this week, calling the process "improper and should be denied." he agencies argue the sovereign collaborative process with the tribes and the states that they had before is what Redden wants them to continue.
"We will be using the same collaboration approach we used with the existing biological opinion," said Will Stelle, regional director of NOAA Fisheries.
In short, they replied, "Now is the time to stay the course."
But that process could not bring the Nez Perce and Oregon on board with them and leaves the environmental and sportsmen groups who sued on the sidelines.
So with a deadline of 2013 to write a new plan and a critical election in 2012, the Obama administration is hoping they can delay anything big. Administration officials hope that by continuing to do what they're doing now, which make no mistake is not cheap, they can avoid the tough choices until later.
Since the salmon advocates really don't have any leverage outside of Redden they are resting their hopes on him and good rhetoric.
"You'd have to believe in the tooth fairy to believe that the regional federal agencies are either truly consulting with all relevant parties in a meaningful way, or likely to develop a scientifically and legally responsible plan after failing miserably four times previously," said Bill Arthur, National Field Director of the Sierra Club.
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