State OKs coho plan
Updated: Friday, February 6,
2004 2:55 PM PST
YREKA - The listing of the
coho salmon as a California Endangered Species
became law on Wednesday to the disappointment of
Siskiyou County's grassroots Save Our Shasta and
Scott Valley communities (SOSS) organization that
has worked for years to prevent it from happening.
In a press release issued
by the California Department of Fish and Game
(DFG), the California Fish and Game Commission
approved the Department of Fish and Game's Coho
Salmon Recovery Strategy at a special session in
Sacramento on Wednesday and then proceeded with
the process for listing coho salmon as an
endangered species in California.
Don Howell of Fort Jones, who served both on the
SOSS and local recovery strategy group, said those
who have worked long and hard to prevent this
listing are very disappointed.
"At the meeting in Sacramento our biologist, Dr.
Chuck Hanson, presented a 5-inch binder of new
scientific data that he said the Department of
Fish and Game needed to review," Howell said. "The
new data puts in question the data the Department
of Fish and Game used to list the coho."
Howell said DFG admitted
that they have not considered any new information
since the original finding in 2002.
"They believe there is no current updated
information to change their decision," Howell
In late August 2002, the Commission made the
finding that populations of coho salmon from San
Francisco to Punta Gorda in Humboldt County
warranted listing as an endangered species under
the California Endangered Species Act.
In addition, the Commission found that the
populations of coho salmon from Punta Gorda north
to the Oregon border warranted listing as a
At that time, the Commission directed DFG to
prepare a recovery strategy for coho salmon, and
delayed the regulatory action by which coho would
be added to the endangered species list while DFG
prepared the recovery strategy. Siskiyou County
was allowed to help prepare its own recovery
"The Coho Salmon Recovery Strategy provides a
blueprint for the recovery of coho salmon in
California, helping to revive struggling coho
populations and restore their habitat," the DFG
press release states. "Ultimately, the
implementation of the Recovery Strategy will lead
to the removal of coho salmon from the California
Endangered Species list as well as lead to the
restoration of tribal, commercial, and
recreational coho salmon fisheries."
DFG Director Ryan Broddrick said "the success of
this recovery strategy depends on the long-term
commitment of us all."
The Recovery Strategy is complex and lengthy,
containing 13 chapters in over 700 pages of text
encompassing more than 750 recommendations with
more than 1,000 recovery tasks.
DFG worked with two recovery teams for its
development - a statewide team and a local team
focusing on agricultural water and land uses in
the Shasta and Scott river valleys in Siskiyou
"These teams are composed of representatives of a
variety of interests including landowners,
environmental organizations, commercial and
recreational fishing, and tribal, federal, state,
and local governments," Broddrick said.
Howell said the recovery team from Siskiyou County
is very disappointed with this listing, feeling
that it should have been postponed.
"The information they used does not substantiate
this listing,¸" Howell said. "Our local recovery
team is concerned because we had not given final
approval to the recommendations and some of them
were rushed through."
Howell said he feels that the coho listing was
driven by the legal Fish and Game code rather than
what is happening in the real world.
The listing also places small landowners who use
surface water for irrigation at great risk.
Howell said that "diverters" will need to protect
themselves with an Incidental Take Permit (ITP).
Otherwise, they will be subject to large fines of
up to $10,000 for each fish they accidentally kill
in an irrigation project.
"We are not talking about large fish, we are
talking about fry," Howell said. "With the
operation of an irrigation system there is always
a potential for harming or killing fish."
It is the incidental take issue that Howell said
the local recovery committee has been struggling
with for the last two months. He said the DFG
draft document was unacceptable but the listing
went ahead anyway.
"The very stringent mitigations to protect the
fish are very difficult for landowners to comply
with," he said. "Until this issue is resolved,
irrigation in the Scott Valley could be in
question this summer."
Howell said the problem with the coho listing is
that it is basically a recovery strategy without
an enforcement component. "It looks like the DFG
intends to use the Incidental Take Permits as the
leverage to force compliance with the strategy."
Howell said many groups worked together trying to
stop the listing and will now try to reverse it.
"We believe there are some interpretations of the
code DFG did not follow but it is hard to convince
a judge about that," Howell said. "We are drafting
a letter stating they made a mistake and the
listing needs to be reversed because there is not
enough information to justify it and elements in
the code were not addressed." - SDN story by John