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 Letter to Congressman Pombo from Chris Vandenberg, Willamette Basin, Oregon, regarding ESA abuse by NOAA Fisheries
8/22/05

Dear Congressman, 

I would like to explain to you a recent development that demonstrates how NOAA fisheries is abusing the current endangered species act and creating the possibility that my property rights may be violated. 

I live on Pedee Creek, a tributary of the Luckiamute River, on the west side of the Willamette basin.  Last week NOAA fisheries officially designated my stretch of creek as critical spawning and rearing habitat for threatened upper Willamette winter steelhead trout despite the finding in their own report, printed in the federal register, "that there is little evidence to suggest that sustained spawning aggregations of steelhead may have existed historically in the westside tributaries of the Willamette River basin.

  Furthermore, it is unlikely that these tributaries, individually or collectively were large enough to constitute a demographically independent population." 

The biologist decided to designate critical habitat for steelhead in a basin that they agree never supported that species.  Their rational is that the Luckiamute basin may "provide habitat for steelhead if there is a catastrophic event in an adjacent basin."  In other words, if a volcano destroys the spawning habitat of the streams on the East side of the Willamette River where the fish are native, the biologists theorize the fish will instead use the westside streams. 

This, despite the fact that the streams are nearly opposite in streamflow characteristics making the westside tributaries where I live unsuitable for steelhead.  NOAA fisheries is designating critical habitat to areas outside the occupied area, in violation of the wording of the ESA.  Under the act, only the Secretary of the Interior is allowed to designate such habitat and only if the species can not be recovered without the habitat.  Our county farm bureau wrote a letter during the comment period for the critical habitat designations pointing out these exact points however they appear to have been ignored. 

We have seen no official response from the Secretary of Interior that our west side basins are critical so we believe that NOAA fisheries has made the critical habitat designation illegally. 

I am now unable to use herbicides to control weeds in my cattle pastures due to new EPA regulations on streams containing listed salmon species.  This is a take on my property and I am very angry about it.  I hope your staff will investigate this issue and take NOAA fisheries to task. 

For further information I can be reached at (503) 838-5126  or e-mail at wombatfrm@earthlink.net   My mailing address is 12503 Pedee Creek Road   Monmouth, OR 97361.  Please follow up on this.  Bob Lohn, Director of NOAA Fisheries is aware of this issue and he is doing nothing about it.

Sincerely,  Chris Vandenberg

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