Parties Ask Court to Extend Stay in Legal Fight for Endangered Snake River Salmon
Bill Arthur, Director, Columbia Basin Salmon Campaign, Sierra Club, (206) 954-9826
Liz Hamilton, Executive Director, Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association, (503) 704-1772
Jacqueline Koch, Media Representative, National Wildlife Federation, (206) 687-8546
Today fishing and conservation groups in long-running litigation to protect endangered salmon and steelhead in the Columbia and Snake Rivers joined with the State of Oregon, Nez Perce Tribe, and United States to ask the U.S. District Court to extend a stay of the litigation by up to one year.
The request for a stay extension is based on commitments the Biden administration has made to develop and implement “a durable long-term strategy to restore salmon and other native fish populations to healthy and abundant levels, honoring federal commitments to Tribal Nations, delivering affordable and reliable clean power, and meeting the many resilience needs of stakeholders across the region.”
The administration’s commitments also recognize that “[i]n the face of climate change, urgent action is needed to restore salmon and other native fish populations to healthy and abundant levels.”
The motion to extend the stay states that any party can ask the Court to lift the stay if the Biden administration fails to take timely and sufficient action to meet the commitments it has made.
Plaintiffs in the case issued the following statements:
“This joint request to extend the litigation stay for up to a year is based on the Biden administration’s unequivocal commitment to urgent and bold action and a new direction for salmon restoration in the Columbia and Snake River Basin. We welcome that commitment. The science is clear; the time for action is now and the centerpiece of successful action that will avoid extinction in the near-term and allow salmon to return to a healthy abundance over time is restoring the lower Snake River and breaching four dams there. We look forward to working with leaders in the Biden administration to move forward together and start taking action that will restore the lower Snake River and its irreplaceable wild salmon. As the documents filed with the Court today make clear, however, if the administration does not live up to its commitment to act urgently and boldly starting now, we will not hesitate to ask the Court to lift the stay so we can return to litigation and our request for an injunction.” – Todd True, Earthjustice lead counsel for the fishing and conservation plaintiffs
“The Biden administration has made clear that business as usual ‘is not working’ and ‘will not achieve the goals of restoring salmon populations and ecosystem functions.’ We agree — there is an urgent need for action. The science is settled and clear that we need new, bold efforts — including restoring the Snake River — to avoid extinction and achieve harvestable abundance. We are committed to working with the Biden administration, the tribes and Northwest leaders to achieve a durable and just solution that works for salmon, orca, communities and tribes.” – Bill Arthur, Sierra Club director of the Columbia Basin Salmon Campaign
“Our salmon and steelhead are in crisis and our fishing communities are too. We urgently need bold action from the Biden administration with actionable timelines. This extension of the litigation stay is an opportunity for the administration to put its money where its mouth is. If they fail to act quickly and decisively, we will not hesitate to return to court to protect the fish. We hope we don’t have to do that, but we are prepared to if it is our only option.” – Liz Hamiton, executive director, Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association
“Salmon are running out of time and barreling toward extinction. We are encouraged that the Biden administration has demonstrated through its words and recent reports a commitment to a comprehensive approach to salmon recovery, but time is of the essence. We need to breach all four lower Snake River dams to restore abundant salmon, meet our commitments to Columbia River Tribes, and ensure the Northwest’s economy and way of life endure and thrive for future generations.” – Erin Farris-Olsen, regional executive director, National Wildlife Federation
In a court battle that goes back more than 25 years, Tribes, fishing groups and conservation organizations have challenged federal agency hydropower systems operation plans, because of their failure to protect threatened and endangered salmon in the Columbia River basin. Three different federal judges have declared five different federal plans illegal, but today, meaningful progress is finally underway toward a new approach that can reverse the decline toward salmon extinction. In this litigation, Earthjustice represents National Wildlife Federation, Sierra Club, National Sportfishing Industry Association, Northwest Energy Coalition, Idaho Conservation League, Idaho Rivers United, Columbia Riverkeeper, the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, Institute for Fisheries Resources, and Federation of Fly Fishers International. The Nez Perce Tribe and state of Oregon are also aligned with these groups. A broad group of supporters and advocates are pushing to restore the Snake River and save wild salmon.
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Earthjustice is the premier nonprofit environmental law organization. We wield the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people’s health, to preserve magnificent places and wildlife, to advance clean energy, and to combat climate change. We are here because the earth needs a good lawyer.