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The Pioneer Press at the very top of the State of California grants permission for this article to be copied and forwarded.
Pioneer Press, Fort Jones, California, January 25, 2006 Vol 33, No. 11 Page A10, column 1
NOAA does not list coho
-- Pressure by Grange aids decision.
-- Oregon coalitions coordinated data and cooperated.
By Liz Bowen
Pioneer Press Assistant Editor, Fort Jones, California
OREGON – The federal government announced last week that it will not list the Oregon costal coho salmon to the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
This is a marked changed by NOAA Fisheries Service, which has been accused of using incorrect data to warrant listing fish to the ESA.
A coalition covering the spectrum of the Oregon State Fish and Wildlife Service, timber, private landowners to the Grange and Pacific Legal Foundation filed lawsuits, applied pressure and provided data to raise the awareness of the significant populations of the silver fish.
It was the Greenhorn Grange in Yreka, California that began browbeating NOAA Fisheries back in 1998 over the listing. The coho salmon in Oregon and Northern California was listed to the ESA by NOAA in 1996.
“It finally occurred to NOAA that they should obey the law and do what the court instructed it to do,” said Leo Bergeron, master of the Greenhorn Grange.
The first federal court ruling against NOAA’s listing of Oregon coho came in the Aslea Valley case. The court ruled that the listing was illegal, because NOAA failed to count all of the coho. NOAA admitted it only counted wild coho and ignored the hatchery coho numbers. But NOAA chose not to de-list the coho in that Evolutionary Significant Unit (area).
Then the Grange worked with the Pacific Legal Foundation in filing a lawsuit for the Southern Oregon and Northern California coho. The federal court ruled that the listing was also illegal, because NOAA failed to once again count all the coho.
Even though the recent decision by NOAA not to list the Oregon coastal coho was appreciated by Bergeron, he is still frustrated with the federal agency.
“NOAA is still ignoring the court’s decision on the Southern Oregon and Northern California coho, so they are still breaking the law,” said Bergeron.
He added that the federal agency should have to suffer penalties for breaking the law, because property owners and timber land owners should be “compensated for losses due to the illegal listing by a government agency.”
Supporting the Greenhorn Grange, from Siskiyou County, has been the State Granges of California, Oregon and Washington along with the Jackson County Pomona Grange in Oregon.
Collaboration created new management techniques
Oregon Congressman Greg Walden commended NOAA Fisheries for its collaboration with the State of Oregon, coastal tribes, county governments, conservation groups and private landowners.
He said that the many groups and individuals involved have realized positive results by comprehensively addressing habitat, hatchery and harvest issues that affect the species.
“Through a comprehensive look at the four H's - harvest, hydropower, hatcheries and habitat - we can find solutions that will effectively and responsibly increase salmon populations,” he explained.
Oregon coastal coho debate dates back to 1995, when the NOAA Fisheries proposed listing the coho as a threatened species. The State of Oregon responded by developing the Oregon Coastal Salmon Restoration Initiative in an effort to conserve and restore Oregon’s coastal salmon and steelhead populations.
This initiative evolved into the Oregon Plan for Salmon and Watersheds which in turn, became a national model for collaborative problem solving resource issues.
In 1998, Oregon voters approved Measure 66, which allocated portions of lottery funds for watershed and restoration projects on the ground. Since that time, $20 to 30 million per biennium has been dedicated to watershed enhancement through the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board.
Collaboration made a difference
OREGON - The current debate over the coho salmon is similar what is occurring in Congress over possible changes to the Endangered Species Act. Under the current law, during the past 32 years, almost 1,300 species have been placed on the threatened or endangered list – but only 10 have actually been recovered and removed from the list. That is a success rate of less than 1 percent. In most instances, there is no recovery plan designated for the species that is ESA listed, making one wonder: What is the real goal of the ESA?
This success story in Oregon on the coho may become the poster child regarding the need for changes in federal ESA policy and how local citizens can make a difference.
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