Groups seek review of coho ruling
appellate courtís decision upholding endangered
listing for the coho salmon may soon go before the
California Supreme Court. - Photo courtesy of Thomas
J. Weseloh, California Trout
asks for endangered species designation decision
over coho salmon protections may soon be going before the
state Supreme Court.
The California Forestry Association and several co-defendants
have asked California's Supreme Court to review a Third
Appellate Court decision, which upheld endangered species
protection for two Northern California coho salmon subgroups.
Damien Schiff of Pacific Legal Foundation, the lead counsel
for the California Forestry Association and the group of
plaintiffs, said they filed a petition for review of the
decision during the last week of December.
The suit disputes the California Fish and Game Commission's
March 2005 decision to give the coho salmon full protection
status under the California Endangered Species Act. "We're
only asking that the court review two aspects of the court of
appeals decision," Schiff said.
The first aspect they want reviewed, which Schiff said is the
most important, is whether California's Endangered Species Act
allows listing of wildlife populations that are subspecies.
The appellate court's decision did grant protections for those
subgroups, which the plaintiffs have said isn't specifically
outlined in state law.
The second issue, said Schiff, is whether the state Fish and
Game Commission must only look at a species' status in
California when making a listing decision, or whether they
also should look at the species in all of its habitat.
The coho extends all the way to Russia, said Schiff. The
subgroups which the commission granted protection for in this
case are in the coho's southernmost western population, from
the Oregon border to Punta Gorda and from Punta Gorda to San
While those two subsets of coho aren't doing well, Schiff said
when considering the coho's status throughout its entire
western habitat, it's nowhere near extinction.
The disputed coho listings create significant cost increases
for timber harvesting, cattle grazing and increase the
regulatory requirements, Schiff said.
"Those are the principal economic bars," Schiff said.
Brian Stranko, chief executive officer of California Trout,
one of the intervenors in the case, said the fish need the
protections and he hopes the state Supreme Court will refuse
to review the decision in order to allow the listing to move
"For a long time, I'd say the California Forestry Association
and others have tried to delay the implementation of the coho
listing and this is in my mind and the organization's mind
another tactic for delay," Stranko said.
Stranko said it's important to keep these California coho
subgroups alive and give them protection. He disputes the
notion that they're not particular species, saying that
science has shown that they are because of different
Why the species is declining comes down to a few "umbrella"
issues, said Stranko, including habitat destruction -
particularly, the changing of rivers and watersheds, through
removal of riparian vegetation, including trees.
The fish also have suffered because of challenges to get to
their historic spawning and rear habitats, said Stranko, which
has resulted from dams and other obstructions.
If the forestry association and its co-defendants win, said
Stranko, the coho's status would be rolled back from
endangered to threatened.
Elizabeth Larson is a staff writer based in Lucerne. E-mail: