Time to Take Action
Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Upholding rural Americans' rights to grow food,
own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.


‘Science’ again trumps sense

In the case of Oregon coastal coho salmon, we’ve had another case of judicial interference with good sense and the political process on the grounds of, supposedly, “science” as required by the Endangered Species Act.

A federal magistrate in Portland has recommended that the Oregon Plan for Salmon and Watersheds be disregarded and that the National Marine Fisheries Services be required to list the coho as threatened or endangered. The magistrate, Janice Stewart, made her decision in a lawsuit by several fishing interests, and it’s now up to a higher federal judge to approve or disapprove her recommendation.

It was during the administration of Gov. John Kitzhaber that this issue last came up and was settled. Kitzhaber and others worked out a state plan to protect and restore stream habitats to allow fish runs to recover and thrive over time.

The plan relied to a large extent on voluntary efforts and on the cooperation of state and federal land agencies and property owners, and because of that it was necessarily vague.

All this was too unscientific for the ESA, at least in the eyes of these plaintiffs and the judge they managed to persuade. But it did have certain things going for it, among them common sense, an indefinite time frame to make it work, practical changes in the operation of state hatcheries, and the hope that Oregon could take care of this issue without the heavy hand of the federal government getting involved.

Science? As the Portland Oregonian pointed out in an editorial Wednesday, federal management of fish runs has been waist-deep in science for years, and how has that worked?

Most of this is the fault of Congress, which has refused to adapt the 1973 Endangered Species Act to the modern era, when judges are allowed to make political decisions that affect the natural world, and some are perfectly willing to do so, using science as their Bible.

In a society that claims to be democratic, the findings of science must always be used to inform the making of decisions, but science should never be allowed to make the decisions themselves. It is politics — the tedious process of debate, discussion, elections, and decisions by leaders keeping in mind the public interest as they understand it— on which we rely to regulate our lives and still remain reasonably free. (hh)


One of the comments following above article on Albany Democrat-Herald

LibDem wrote on Jul 20, 2007 1:49 PM:
" HH, I also think "they" made a bad ruling. I don't think all the data and information was made available. In my experience, I've seen a steady upswing in Coho numbers for the past few years, and it's been the direct result of coordinated (not pure scientific) Oregon efforts. (volunteer stream enhancement projects, hatchboxes, etc.) Last week off Charleston, I caught and released over 50 fat ones. Commercially, we are not allowed to keep them until Aug 15. We have been allocated a quota of 10,000 fish, 50 per week, per boat. The season ends on Aug 31. The reopening from Sep 10 to the 13th could still have Coho, depending on the catch numbers. Or.....it could end quickly for the same reason. This is the first Coho season for commercial boats in many, many years. The sports guys are having a ball. Nearly every one limited quickly. It was a kick to watch them "skip" by me and my 10 knot chug, smiling and waving, speeding to and from. Some caught Tuna, in as close as 15 miles, and then loaded up on Coho in fhe afternoon. To me, this upswing validates the Oregon point of view, and brings into question the federal one. The CROOS DNA sampling program we are doing with Chinook could be used here. We clip an adipose, take 8 or 10 scales from midfish, measure, log in Lon/Lat/depth, and send em to OSU for analysis. Within 48 hours the stream of origin, age, viability, etc. can be pinpointed. This is our new way to keep "them" from closing the entire coast due to low Klamath counts, but I think it could also work for Coho. The more data made available about where they were hatched, and which methods have yielded the best returns could help cure the federal myopia. I am hoping for a reversal, and will try and be a part of the efforts in getting one. "


Home Contact


              Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:14 AM  Pacific

             Copyright © klamathbasincrisis.org, 2007, All Rights Reserved