Fisheries Service formally considers petitions to drop salmon protection

The Associated Press
2/11/02 9:04 PM

GRANTS PASS, Ore. (AP) -- The federal government has formally accepted
petitions to consider dropping Endangered Species Act protection for 14 of
the 25 groups of Pacific salmon and steelhead on the West Coast.

The evaluations will be folded into a process the National Marine Fisheries
Service started last year to reconsider protection for 23 of the 25 groups
of salmon and steelhead after a federal judge found the agency erred in
declaring Oregon coastal coho a threatened species, agency spokesman Brian
Gorman said Monday.

Results of the evaluations should be finished by September, Gorman said.

U.S. District Judge Michael Hogan in Eugene ruled that NMFS violated the
Endangered Species Act when it lumped hatchery and wild fish into the same
group, known as an evolutionarily significant unit, then granted threatened
species status only to the wild fish.

The petitions were filed by a variety of farm and property rights groups on
15 groups of salmon and steelhead, known as ESUs or evolutionarily
significant units. The agency rejected petitions to reconsider protection
for Snake River sockeye, the weakest of the Northwest salmon runs.

The petitions accepted include: Snake River spring/summer chinook, Snake
River fall chinook, Puget Sound chinook, Lower Columbia River chinook,
Upper Columbia River spring chinook, Hood Canal summer chum, Columbia River
chum, upper Columbia River steelhead, Snake River Basin steelhead, Lower
Columbia River Steelhead, Middle Columbia River steelhead, Klamath Province
coho, upper Willamette River chinook and upper Willamette River steelhead.

Trout Unlimited criticized the action, saying the petitions failed to live
up to NMFS' scientific standards, and would divert scarce resources needed
in other areas.

Threatened species protection for Oregon Coastal coho has been restored
pending an appeal of the ruling by environmentalists.

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