A Win for Salmonby Editors
Idaho Mountain Express, June 1, 2005
The federal judge who issued the widely acclaimed (and condemned) ruling that protected the spotted owl from extinction now has sent a devastating decision to the Bush administration about salmon.
Federal District Judge James Redden has rebuked government claims that dams on the lower Snake and Columbia rivers don't imperil the endangered salmon, and further rejected as unsuitable the measures used to recover salmon, including barging.
Salmon, Judge Redden ruled, "are in serious decline and not evidencing signs of recovery."
Judge Redden has thus renewed hopes of conservationists and fisheries biologists that some if not all the dams can be breached to allow for safer passage of salmon to the Pacific and back.
Of course, Judge Redden's ruling could agitate the president's pro-dam, anti-salmon followers in Congress to rewrite the Endangered Species Act in such a way as to strike salmon from the list and void their protection.
That ugly possibility should energize the nation's entire conservation community: If endangered salmon could be cynically and casually removed from protection to accommodate hydroelectric interests, none of the nation's environmental assets are safe from political mischief.
Groups concerned about survival of salmon have done yeoman service in their persistent, well-reasoned fight to save the salmon and to target unnecessary dams for breaching.
The toughest rounds in the fight, however, may lie ahead as a president known for his contempt of the Endangered Species Act prepares a counterattack to Judge Redden's initial decision.
June 10, when Judge Redden decides whether to place operating restrictions on hydroelectric dams, could be an historic moment for the future of the nation's environmental laws.
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