The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Zeke Grader, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, (415) 561-5080 x224
Jim Martin, Former Chief of Fisheries, Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife, (503) 704-9651
Michael Garrity, American Rivers, (206) 852-5583

Coalition Documents Obama's Ghoulish Salmon Plan

Calling it devoid of science and law, salmon and fishing advocates say biological opinion is a bad ‘trick’ on the people of the Northwest


A coalition of fishing, business, and conservation organizations
asked a federal judge today to declare President Obama's Columbia and
Snake river salmon recovery plan illegal.

"We'd like to pretend this plan is just a 'trick' and the 'treat' is
still to come," said Michael Garrity of American Rivers. "But we can't.
We've been here too many times before. This administration has got to
stop trying to put a pretty costume on an ugly plan and start following
the law and science. We're dealing with people's livelihoods and
keystone species on the brink of extinction."

Because federal dams are harming threatened and endangered salmon and
steelhead in the Columbia and Snake rivers, the law requires federal
agencies to create a plan - or biological opinion (BiOp) - to reduce the
damage. The papers filed today respond to the Obama administration's
continuing failure to provide legal, science-based plan.

"For two years the coalition has asked the Obama administration to
uphold its promises for scientific integrity and transparency," said
former Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife fisheries chief Jim
Martin. "It appears those were empty promises. If anything, the
administration is going backward in terms of openness and scientific

In 2009, the coalition asked Obama to review the 2008 Bush salmon
plan. The Obama administration agreed to do so, but instead of
significantly improving the legally flawed Bush salmon plan, the
administration adopted the plan as its own. The only addition from the
Obama administration was an Adaptive Management Implementation Plan
(AMIP) that promises only to study additional measures to help
Endangered Species Act-listed salmon should their populations collapse.

The Western Division of the American Fisheries Society judges the
AMIP "inadequate for ensuring the protection of threatened and
endangered salmon and steelhead in the Columbia River Basin."

The Society review found that rather than using a precautionary
approach to protecting threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead,
the plan "seems to use a precautionary principle to support the 2008
Biological Opinion and defend the status quo."

Such skepticism of the Obama approach is widespread. "The federal
government simply ignored science that didn't meet its political goals -
it ignored science from the AFS, fisheries biologists with the State of
Oregon or the Nez Perce Tribe, and its own so-called 'independent
scientists,'" Martin said. "This plan puts the weight of risk on the
fish in violation of the law, and the risk is of extinction."

The Obama plan, according to the coalition's filing, augments the
flawed approaches of the past with new unscientific defects. For
example, the Obama plan details the threat climate change poses to
salmon, but proposes no new actions to address climate impacts.

Obama's plan offers no new actions to protect Snake River sockeye
salmon whose woefully low numbers have already tripped predetermined
action "triggers." The Western Division of the American Fisheries
Society deems the federal agency approach to Snake River sockeye
protection "inappropriate."

Moreover, the Obama administration's process for adopting the
biological opinion has been shrouded in mystery. Legal proceedings have
revealed federal agencies' refusal to release more than 40 percent of
the relevant documents.

"The current plan is nothing more than more of the same failed
policies of the Bush administration, only with a new cover sheet." said
Zeke Grader, executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of
Fishermen's Associations (PCFFA), one of the plaintiff groups. "We're
seeing neither good science nor good policy in this plan - just another
prescription for failure. More failure just destroys more
salmon-dependent jobs. At-risk salmon-dependent communities have a
right to a plan based on science and law, not on politics and denial."

Briefing on the case will continue through the end of 2010. A hearing
before the United States District Court in Oregon isn't expected until
early 2011.

Plaintiffs in this case include a broad range of regional and
national conservation groups, fishing associations, and business
interests. They are joined by the State of Oregon, the Nez Perce Tribe
of Idaho, and the Spokane Tribe of Washington.

American Rivers is the only national organization standing up for healthy rivers so our communities can thrive. Through national advocacy, innovative solutions and our growing network of strategic partners, we protect and promote our rivers as valuable assets that are vital to our health, safety and quality of life. Founded in 1973, American Rivers has more than 65,000 members and supporters nationwide, with offices in Washington, DC and the Mid-Atlantic, Northeast, Midwest, Southeast, California and Northwest regions.