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Judge: Chinook Salmon Remain 'Endangered' while Suit Proceeds

by Matthew Daly, Associated Press
Seattle Times, August 23, 2002

WASHINGTON -- A federal judge yesterday denied a request by a business and farming group to take chinook salmon in Puget Sound and the Columbia River off a threatened-species list.

Acting at a preliminary hearing, U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman ruled that the salmon should continue to be protected while a lawsuit seeking to overturn the threatened-species designation proceeds.

Common Sense Salmon Recovery, a coalition of Washington builders, farmers and cattlemen, filed suit three years ago seeking to remove the salmon from the list of threatened or endangered species.

The judge's ruling does not affect the underlying case.

An attorney representing an environmental group that has been granted intervener status in the case called Friedman's ruling an important victory.

"For us, it's a good indication that the fish listings (as threatened or endangered) will stay in place, and we'll be able to keep the protections they need in order to survive," said Kristen Boyles, a Seattle-based lawyer for Earthjustice, an environmental-law firm that represents Pacific Coast fishermen, the Sierra Club and other groups.

Jim Johnson, a lawyer for the group that brought the suit, said the judge's ruling was expected. The business coalition includes the Washington Farm Bureau, Washington Cattlemen's Association, Washington Association of Realtors and the Building Industry Association of Washington.

Johnson, while disappointed, said he was encouraged that the judge agreed to hear the merits of the case as soon as November. The case has already dragged on for three years, "so a couple more months is no big deal," he said.

A spokeswoman for the National Marine Fisheries Service, which designated the salmon as threatened, said the agency was pleased.

"The salmon stock will remain listed and will benefit from the protections of the Endangered Species Act as the lawsuit proceeds," Susan Buchanan said.

The case is similar to one last year regarding the threatened-species listing of Oregon coastal coho salmon. A federal judge ruled in September that the fisheries service erred in lumping hatchery fish and wild fish into the same group, known as an "evolutionarily significant unit," and then gave threatened-species protection only to the wild fish.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals set aside Judge Michael Hogan's ruling in December.

Matthew Daly, Associated Press
Judge: Chinook Salmon Remain 'Endangered' while Suit Proceeds
Seattle Times, August 23, 2002

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