Earthjustice, represented by attorneys Todd True and Steve Mashuda, received the Conservation Advocacy Award for 2003 from the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission on July 26. The award is given to an advocacy organization that has best focused its resources on behalf of salmon. The award was given at a ceremony held in Portland.
In giving the award the Commission noted: Commissionnoted:"Earthjustice ... is the premier environmental plaintiffs law firm in the Pacific Northwest. Earthjustice has advocated for reform of the Federal Columbia River Power System for a decade. It has actively litigated to protect salmon habitat on public lands and has sought enforcement of the aquatic conservation strategy of the Northwest Forest Plan."
The award comes on the heels of a stunning court victory in which federal district Judge James A. Redden found the government's plan for recovering salmon in the Columbia River Basin is illegal under the Endangered Species Act because it relied on speculative future actions to protect salmon.
The court ruled that the plan fell well short of meeting the requirements of the act and must be reworked to make it more salmon friendly. The court gave the government a year in which to come up with a plan that will recover salmon populations in the basin. True and Mashuda led the legal team that achieved the court victory and they have been closely involved in the work of a broad environmental and tribal effort to force the government to take the major steps necessary to restore wild salmon in the Columbia basin.
As NOAA Fisheries (formerly known as NMFS) acknowledges in its briefs, salmon and steelhead in the Columbia and Snake rivers "remain in a state of perilous decline throughout the...Basin." While these fish were once the backbone of a prosperous Northwest fishing and recreation economy, four federal dams on the lower Snake River in eastern Washington have caused the largest salmon populations in the basin to plummet. Now twelve salmon and steelhead populations are imperiled throughout the basin and all Snake River salmon are either listed under the Endangered Species Act or have already gone extinct.
The Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission was created in 1977 by tribes living along the Columbia and Snake Rivers that have always relied on salmon. The commission provides technical and legal support to tribes to protect and enhance streams that provide spawning, rearing, and migratory habitat for anadromous fish such as salmon and steelhead.