U.S. District Court
Judge Garr M. King on Friday (Oct. 26) granted a doubling of
the time allotted for the federal government to produce a new
final listing rule for Oregon Coast coho salmon stocks.
King's order vacated his Oct. 5 judgment that gave the
National Marine Fisheries Service 60 days to make a new
listing decision, and reset the deadline at 120 days. The
federal agency how has until Feb. 4 to produce a listing
decision "consistent with the Endangered Species Act."
The federal agency in January 2006 decided the coho stock
did not warrant ESA protections and withdrew an earlier
proposal to list the coastal stock as threatened. That
decision was challenged by Trout Unlimited and other fishing
and conservation groups represented by Earthjustice.
On July 13 U.S. District Court Magistrate Janice M. Stewart
found that NMFS' decision was arbitrary and capricious under
the ESA, saying it failed to consider the best available
science, and recommended that the federal agency be given 60
days to issue a new listing.
King adopted Stewart's findings and recommendations and
issued a judgment.
According to federal attorneys King's new judgment resets
the time clock for filing an appeal of King's Oct. 5 order and
judgment. The government now has 60 days from issuance of the
revised Oct. 26 final judgment -- until Dec. 26 -- to decide
whether to file an appeal.
That deadline also applies to the state of Oregon and the
Alsea Valley Alliance, defendant-interveners in the lawsuit.
In making the request for an extension, NMFS' regional
administrator Bob Lohn testified that more time was needed
produce an assessment of the coho stock's status and to
satisfy other ESA requirements.
"While this schedule would likely not allow time for major
new analyses or information-gathering, nor the opening of a
new public comment period, it would allow NMFS to confirm
whether data collected since our review and other new
information and analyses might affirm or alter any of those
determinations," Lohn said.
The extension would allow "for the possibility of
simultaneously designating critical habitat for this
Evolutionary Significant Unit ('ESU') and provide protective
regulations under 16 U.S.C. § 1533(d) (commonly referred to as
a section '4(d) rule')," according to a memorandum filed by
the Justice Department in support of the request. If it is
decided that the coho stock requires listing under the ESA,
critical habitat and 4(d) protections are required.
"An additional 60 days will allow NMFS to consider some of
the new information that has been developed since this
litigation ensued and thus will make any decision more likely
to withstand future legal challenge," the memorandum says.
Plaintiffs in the case asked that judge require completion
of the critical habitat determination and protective
regulations in the same 120-day time frame, rather than allow
for that "possibility." But King's revised judgment did not
address that request.