In January of 2008, several conservation groups – including the Center for Biological Diversity, Oregon Wild, the Environmental Protection Information Center and the Larch Corporation – filed a petition with the Secretary of Commerce requesting that the Klamath River Chinook salmon be listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
The petitioners asked that NMFS consider three different listing options:
1) List spring-run Chinook in
the Upper Klamath and Trinity River (UKTR)
Evolutionarily Significant Unit (ESU) as its own
2) List spring-run Chinook in the UKTR ESU as distinct population segment; or
3) List the entire UKTR Chinook ESU.
According to Oregon Wild Communications Assistant Sean Stevens, the primary goal of the petition was to list Klamath River spring-run Chinook, not necessarily the more abundant fall-run Chinook.
Stevens said Oregon Wild and other organizations have spent about a decade researching the petition and reviewing the science behind the genetics of spring vs. fall-run Chinook in the UKTR ESU.
“We still feel that the petition was merited,” he said. “We are still in the process of reviewing the NMFS decision.”
He added that a decision has not been made yet regarding the possibility of appeal.
“Historically, spring-run Chinook salmon were likely the predominant run type in the Klamath-Trinity River Basin,” the NMFS decision states. “Most spring-run spawning and rearing habitat was blocked by the construction of dams in the late 1800s and early 1900s in the Klamath River and in the 1960s in the Trinity River Basin. As a result of these and other factors, spring-run populations were considered to be at less than 10 percent of their historical levels.”
During the initial 90-day review process, NMFS had determined that “the petition presented substantial information indicating that the petitioned action may be warranted.”
Stevens said Oregon Wild was
surprised by the final NMFS decision considering
the agency’s initial determination of the
Separate or not?
The petitioners contend that
new information demonstrates that spring-run and
fall-run Chinook salmon in the UKTR ESU qualify
as separate ESUs based on “significant and
persistent genetic and reproductive isolation
resulting from their different run timing.”