Today, in an ongoing battle to save wild salmon, a coalition of fishing and conservation groups filed papers in federal court asking U.S. District Court Judge James Redden to ensure federal agencies take actions needed to protect salmon and steelhead in the Columbia-Snake River Basin. In early August, Judge Redden told the federal agencies that their existing salmon plan was illegal under the Endangered Species Act. Now, fishing and conservation groups are concerned that federal agencies are ignoring the need to significantly revamp the plan.
“It’s simple: the judge told the federal agencies that they were off-track with their last salmon plan, but everything coming from the federal agencies seems to suggest that they didn’t get the message, “ said Liz Hamilton of Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association. “In order to fix a problem, you have to admit one exists, and the federal agencies sure aren’t admitting to the problems in the current plan.”
The fishing and conservation groups are seeking two steps to facilitate needed policy changes for endangered salmon. To prevent any more time from being wasted, the groups are asking the Court to appoint a settlement judge to work with the plaintiffs and defendants to agree on an approach to the revised plan due by 2014. The groups are also asking for an independent scientific review process to evaluate what, if any, progress on protecting these salmon has occurred since the current plan was implemented.
The request comes in response to the annual “progress report” federal agencies recently submitted to the court, as required. Fishing businesses and conservation groups found the federal “progress report” lacking in specifics and transparency. In their papers filed with the federal court today, plaintiffs are asserting that the ”progress report” is misleading and that, “This kind of salesmanship ultimately will serve no one well, least of all the ESA-listed salmon and steelhead that are at the heart of this controversy.”
Plaintiffs’ comments in response illustrate that the federal agencies are behind schedule on implementing salmon restoration actions, that the actions the federal agencies have implemented have not achieved the survival benefits promised, and that as a result salmon are in deeper trouble than the “progress report” implies.
“The regional federal agencies remain dedicated to the status quo, despite the Court’s strongly-worded rejection of the current plan and a chorus of calls for a new approach. This process needs an overhaul. Three plans from three different administrations have been rejected and we’re still not making real progress,” says Glen Spain of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations. “It is high time to get the plaintiffs and the federal defendants to a table so that we can make progress, create an agreed upon settlement, and bring back salmon and our jobs.”