Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
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Klamath Bucket Brigade, Inc
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Klamath Falls, Oregon 97601
2/8/05: Pacific Legal Foundation attorney Russell Brooks will be addressing the ramifications of District Court Judge Michael Hogan’s latest rulings in Grange v. Evans and National Marine Fisheries Service during a Town Hall Meeting sponsored by the Greenhorn Grange and the Klamath Bucket Brigade on February 17, 2004 in Klamath Falls, Oregon. The meeting will be held at the Midland Grange Hall (corner of Joe Wright Road and Tingley Lane) starting at 7:30 PM. There will be time for Questions & Answers after Mr. Brooks’ presentation.
On February 24, 2004, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals effectively invalidated the listing of the Oregon Coast coho salmon as a "threatened species" under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). In September 2001, in Alsea Valley Alliance v. Evans, Judge Hogan ruled that the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) acted illegally in protecting fish spawning in the wild, but not hatchery fish, which are genetically identical. The NMFS' counting of only naturally spawned salmon while totally disregarding hatchery spawned salmon kept the fish count artificially low, justifying otherwise needless ESA protections and locking up land use.
The Court's order invalidating and setting aside the coho listing had been postponed during the appeal and finally reinstated on February 24, 2004. Consequently, the Oregon North Coast coho listing no longer exists and may not be enforced. This decision stands to have huge implications for land stewards and natural resource providers such as farmers, ranchers, and timber harvesters as well as local governments and citizens struggling with infrastructure development of schools, hospitals, and highways.
The Pacific Legal Foundation, which represented the Alsea Valley Alliance, claimed the Court's decision as a victory for "good science and common sense." Many biologists, including even a chief of the NMFS hatcheries and inland fisheries branch, have agreed that there probably aren't any truly "wild" salmon left in the lower 48 states and that because of nearly 50 years of natural cohabitation, the hatchery-spawned salmon and the "wild" salmon are virtually indistinguishable. "With the Ninth Circuit's dismissal of this appeal, the 'sky is falling' rhetoric of hardcore environmental activists has been debunked and their true agenda exposed. This attempt to control private land use in the name of species protection has been successfully shut down," The PLF attorney Russ Brooks said.
On January 12, 2005, District Court Judge Michael Hogan agreed with PLF in Grange v. Evans and National Marine Fisheries Service that the federal government violated the ESA when it failed to consider hatchery fish in its assessment of coho in southern Oregon and northern California rivers. However, Judge Hogan did not set aside the illegal listing, but left it in place while the agency completes the review of 26 west coast salmon listings, which it agreed to undertake as a result of its loss in Alsea. But he did indicate that if a federal agency took a specific enforcement action on behalf of the illegal listing which caused harm, those harmed could go to court and ask to have the federal action stopped. By court order, the National Marine Fisheries Service must decide by June 14 whether to continue the coho’s threatened status under the species act.
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