2 claims of victory in coho ruling
Updated: Wednesday, January 19, 2005 1:03 PM
With both sides of the issue
claiming a measure of victory, reaction to a
ruling in the Oregon US District Court on listing
coho salmon as an endangered species has met with
enthusiasm in some quarters and cautious optimism
The ruling was closely
watched by Klamath Basin groups including
irrigators and fishing interests.
The Klamath Basin has been a focus of the issue in
recent years as the federal government has
alternately cut off water to farmers to save fish
and then gave the water to farmers that some
groups claim resulted in massive fish die-offs.
In suit brought by the Pacific Legal Foundation,
that claims in part that hatchery salmon should be
counted along with wild salmon in determining
numbers, judge Michael Hogan ruled January 11th
that listings the coho salmon as an endangered
species was "legally deficient." He kept in the
listing in place, however, until the federal
government completes studies regarding hatchery
salmon this summer.
The PLF suit contended,
among other issues, that the US Fish and Wildlife
Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service
erred in distinguishing between hatchery and
spawned fish in counting numbers to determine
The PLF saw the ruling as vindication of the suit.
"This victory came too late for the farmers who
were pushed into bankruptcy and the businesses
that were forced to close to protect fish that
were never endangered," said Pacific Legal
Foundation attorney Russ Brooks. "Our rivers and
streams are teeming with salmon, yet the Klamath
community was practically destroyed because of
environmental politics run amok."
"This ruling should send a message to NOAA
Fisheries that they cannot continue to circumvent
the Endangered Species Act to keep salmon listed
when the prolific number of hatchery fish means
salmon are not endangered." Brooks continued.
Klamath Waters Users Association executive
director Dan Keppen was a cautious in his response
to the ruling. The KWUA represents Klamath Basin
"The judge ruled the hatchery fish need to be
counted with the wild fish, but he left the
listing in place," Keppen said. "Hopefully this
might give the government a cover to count both
kinds of fish. A fish is a fish."
Glenn Spain of the Pacific Coast Federation of
Fisherman's Association says the ruling was a
"pyrrhic victory at best" for the PLF and what the
judge ruled on was a "minor technical flaw."
"They won a technical battle, but not the war,"
Spain said. "The judge saw through that it is just
a water grab by some disgruntled landowners to
remove federal protection and let the fish in the
lower river go extinct."
Spain said that regardless of the ruling, the fish
"It's beside the point," Spain said. "Hatchery or
wild, they are likely to die because of too little
Spain said fish losses in recent years have run
into "tens of millions of dollars."
"They are just trying to knock out the endangered
species listing," Spain said. "The judge saw
A report on the issue from the National Oceanic
and Atmospheric Administration is expected this