PLF Files Lawsuit Challenging 16 Salmon ESA Listings Throughout the West
Pacific Legal Foundation News Release
Eugene,OR; December 13, 2005: Pacific Legal Foundation today filed a sweeping lawsuit challenging 16 Endangered Species Act listings of salmon spanning four western states, charging the federal government with illegally distinguishing between hatchery and naturally spawned fish. PLF says NOAA Fisheries Service's new hatchery policy and the listings violate the ESA, and contradict PLF’s 2001 landmark federal court victory in Alsea Valley Alliance v. Evans.
In Alsea, a federal court ruled the government had violated the ESA when it ignored the prolific numbers of hatchery salmon in listing the Oregon coast coho as threatened. Federal officials agreed to comply with the ruling by reviewing the status of its salmon listings and updating them to ensure they complied with the court’s ruling. Instead, PLF says NOAA’s "relistings" are nothing more than a shell game; the agency continues to justify the ESA listings by "counting" and evaluating only the naturally spawned fish in determining whether a given population warrants listing, then listing the entire population of both hatchery and naturally spawned fish—but excluding hatchery salmon from ESA protection.
"Four years ago, federal officials promised they would issue new findings on salmon listings that would comply with the court’s decision in Alsea," said Russ Brooks, the managing attorney for PLF’s Pacific Northwest office who successfully litigated the Alsea Valley Alliance case. "Instead, the agency continues to ignore the law and the scientific reality that thousands of hatchery and naturally spawned fish thriving in western rivers mean that salmon are not threatened with extinction."
"The ESA does not allow federal regulators to treat some members of a species differently when they exist in the same river, in the same natural ecosystems, and interbreed together," added Brooks.
PLF says that the salmon listings are crippling the economies of western states, driving prices up, and killing jobs in almost every major economic sector from farming and agriculture to new home construction and transportation.
"This policy is an insult to the tens of thousands of people whose livelihoods are being held hostage by needless regulations to protect fish that aren’t endangered," said Brooks.
PLF filed the lawsuit on behalf of a broad coalition of property owners, farmers, and business groups representing tens of thousands of citizens in Oregon, Washington, California, and Idaho, including Alsea Valley Alliance, Oregon State Grange, Jackson County Pomona Grange, Washington Farm Bureau, Washington Association of Realtors, Building Industry Association of Washington, California State Grange, Greenhorn Grange, Central Coast Forest Association, Coalition for Idaho Water, Idaho Farm Bureau, Idaho Water Users Association, Pioneer Irrigation District, and Idaho State Senator Skip Brandt.
About Pacific Legal Foundation
Founded in 1973, Pacific Legal Foundation is a nonprofit, public interest legal organization dedicated to defending individual and private property rights. PLF is a national leader in the effort to reform the Endangered Species Act and raise awareness of the act’s impact on people. PLF’s Pacific Northwest Center is located in Bellevue, Washington.
Contact Russ Brooks, Pacific Legal Foundation for more information
Phone: (425) 576-0484