White House Proposes Cutbacks in Protected Pacific Salmon Habitat

In perhaps the opening salvo in what promises to be a systematic weakening of endangered species protections in the United States, the White House last week proposed cutting back river miles protected to facilitate Pacific salmon recovery by 80 percent, while simultaneously rejecting any possibility of removing hydropower dams that have decimated the fish's reproductive capacity. Meanwhile, the Bush administration wants to offer a wide range of exemptions from endangered species statutes for property owners on lands abutting affected rivers in Washington, Oregon and California.

Federal officials with the National Marine Fisheries Service said the new proposal—which is meant to replace a Clinton-era plan successfully challenged in federal court by real estate developers in 2002—would better balance the needs of salmon with human demands for water, energy, timber and real estate.

Meanwhile, environmental groups and Native American tribes with treaty rights to salmon oppose the new proposal on grounds that it places the desires of real estate developers and hydropower consumers above the needs of dwindling fish populations—calling into question the very purpose of the Endangered Species Act itself.

The National Marine Fisheries Service is currently soliciting public comment on the new proposal, which White House officials hope will go into effect within a year.

Source: Oregon Live