NW Tribes Take Salmon Concerns to the Topby John Hughes, Associated Press
Seattle Post-Intelligencer, January 26, 2000
Northwest tribal leaders were tight-lipped after a high-level White House meeting on salmon issues yesterday, saying they were deferring comment until they receive a letter from federal officials.
The letter, expected from the White House Council on Environmental Quality, will detail some of the issues covered in the meeting and suggest a schedule for more consultations in coming months, said Charles Hudson, spokesman for the Columbia River Intertribal Fish Commission representing four Northwest tribes with treaty rights to Columbia salmon.
Spokesman Eliot Diringer of the White House council, which advises President Clinton on environmental issues, called the two-hour meeting "a frank, productive exchange" on salmon problems.
Federal officials told the tribes that all options for reviving salmon runs remain on the table, he said.
The parties agreed to hold more meetings in the Pacific Northwest, and to meet again in Washington, D.C., in March or April, Diringer said.
The White House meeting, requested by tribal members, was billed as a nation-to-nation talk on joint efforts to revive the 13 threatened and endangered salmon runs in the Columbia River Basin.
The four Northwest tribes represented by the commission -- Yakama, Umatilla, Warm Springs and Nez Perce -- claim salmon-fishing rights under 1855 federal treaties. The fish have longstanding economic and cultural significance for tribal members.
Top officials from more than a half-dozen federal agencies and offices attended the meeting, along with tribal leaders and representatives of the intertribal commission.
On Monday, Hudson said the tribes planned to tell federal leaders that avoiding extinction and endangered-species listings for salmon is not enough -- that the Columbia and Snake rivers must again become the robust, productive fisheries that existed when the treaties were signed 145 years ago.
Federal officials will not meet their obligations until they restore healthy salmon runs in the Pacific Northwest, Hudson said.
Tribes were also expected to urge no more tribal fishing cutbacks as part of the salmon recovery. Tribes have already reduced harvests to a fraction of historical levels, yet the fish have not recovered, Hudson said.
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