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Commentaries and editorials

Yogi Berra and the
Endangered Species Act

by Editorial Board
Capital Press, May 19, 2016

(Cartoon by Rik Dalvit) Judge says: 'You are not saving endangered fish as I ordered.; NOAA: 'You must have me confused with the other Noah. Yogi Berra said it best. It's like deja vu all over again.

For the fifth time, a federal judge has ruled that NOAA Fisheries and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers did not meet the requirements of the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act in coming up with a plan to help threatened and endangered fish that spawn in the Columbia and Snake rivers.

This has been going on for 15 years, as judges are confined by two of the worst-written laws that Congress has ever cooked up. Across the West, these two laws have contributed to the near demise of the timber industry and threaten the cattle industry for the sake of two birds.

One, the northern spotted owl, ranges from California to British Columbia. "Other" spotted owls range as far south as Mexico. The greater sage grouse lives in 11 states and is related to 23 other types of grouse that range from Mexico to the Arctic.

Yet we are willing to throw entire industries under the environmental bus to "save" the birds.

On the Columbia and Snake rivers, billions of dollars -- that's with a "B" -- have been spent on the fish, not because specific species are considered to be endangered, but because certain populations need to be protected.

For example, on the Columbia and Snake rivers the 13 "species" of fish are: Tribal fishering nets dry on racks along the Columbia River at the Maryhill site. (Thomas Boyd photo)

Without special tests, even a trained eye cannot tell the difference between a chinook salmon from the Columbia River and a chinook from the Willamette River. Similarly, a steelhead from the middle Columbia River is identical to Lower or Upper Columbia steelheads, yet they are each treated as different species under the law.

In the most recent decision, U.S. District Judge Michael Simon said the case "cries out for a new approach."

We think it cries out for better federal environmental laws.

Without them, the closed circuit of the Columbia and Snake River litigation will continue indefinitely. The Corps and NOAA Fisheries will go back to the drawing board to come up with a sixth plan, only to be sued by environmental groups that know the laws are all but impossible to satisfy, and a judge -- maybe this one, maybe another -- will send them back yet again.

In the meantime, the 13 salmon and steelhead populations will continue to be managed under the current plan, which apparently is good enough for the fish, but not for the Endangered Species Act or the National Environmental Policy Act.

Stand by for round six.

Editorial Board
Yogi Berra and the Endangered Species Act
Capital Press, May 19, 2016

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