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Commentaries and editorials

Judge Made the Right Call
in Rejecting Feds' Fish Plan

by Editors
The Idaho Statesman, May 28, 2005

The feds didn't just lose in court Thursday. Their faulty plan for saving Idaho salmon was hammered.

In rejecting the Bush administration's salmon strategy, known as a biological opinion, U.S. District Judge James Redden was uncompromising, direct and correct. On repeated occasions -- in dismissing several glaring shortcomings in the plan -- Redden derided the federal government for "arbitrary and capricious" decision-making.

His far-reaching ruling reopens the possibility of breaching the four dams in the lower Snake River in Washington. The Bush administration tried to use this recovery plan to rule out, prematurely, the idea of breaching dams to help salmon migrate back to Idaho.

Over the course of 58 pages, Redden pointedly reminded the federal government -- and all of us in the Northwest -- what a legitimate plan for saving salmon ought to look like:

But while Redden made the right ruling Thursday, the sad truth is that salmon continue to struggle while their fate is argued in court. The net effect of the Bush administration's flawed plan is nine more wasted months in a 15-year fight.

Since September, when NOAA Fisheries trotted out this blueprint, Idaho's spring chinook returns have been so low that the Idaho Fish and Game Commission scaled back the fishing season to four days a week. We're not drawing cause and effect connection between the NOAA Fisheries plan and this year's unexplained drop in salmon numbers. We are pointing out that the longer we kick this legal can down the road, the worse for our fish, our economy and our region.

But don't blame Redden. He has been a consistent and thoughtful champion for Idaho's salmon, and Thursday's ruling continues that legacy. Redden laid down a challenge not just to NOAA Fisheries, but to all of us who have an emotional stake in salmon recovery and an economic stake in our state's future:

Do better.

Do it right.

What's more, he offered some solid advice on how to do it.

Judge Made the Right Call in Rejecting Feds' Fish Plan
The Idaho Statesman, May 28, 2005

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