Court approves NMFS salmon settlement agreement with NAHB - 19 West Coast salmon and steelhead critical habitat designations to be removed

May 7, 2002

Neil Gaffney

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia has
approved a settlement agreement submitted by the National Marine Fisheries
Service (NMFS), thereby ending a lawsuit initiated by the National
Association of Home Builders (NAHB).  As part of the agreement, NMFS will
remove critical habitat designations for 19 West Coast salmon and steelhead
populations and begin working on a new critical habitat designation that
includes more scientific studies and an analysis of the economic impacts of
those designations, as required under the federal Endangered Species Act

The Court agreed with NAHB's assertion that NMFS used flawed methods to
determine the 19 salmon and steelhead populations' critical habitat (i.e.,
the geographic regions needing the most stringent land and water use
regulation and protection).  "Clearly, there is a problem with the current
process underlying the critical habitat designation process" for endangered
and threatened salmon under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), Judge Colleen
Kollar-Kotelly noted in her April 30 approval of the NMFS agreement.
Kollar-Kotelly also agreed with NAHB's position that the costs of
environmental protection for the salmon and steelhead populations were never
taken into consideration.  "Costs that should be considered in making the
critical habitat designation," Kollar-Kotelly wrote, "are left entirely out
of the picture."  

"Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly's decision makes the NMFS settlement agreement
official," NAHB President Gary Garczynski said in reaction to the court
approval.  "Now NAHB will work with NMFS, local governments, environmental
organizations and residents in these affected communities to create a
critical habitat designation that protects salmon.  The agreement means that
environmental protection under the Endangered Species Act should be based on
the law, sound science, and a consideration of the economic impacts."

NAHB and 16 other groups filed suit against NMFS in November of 1999,
asserting that the areas designated as critical habitat by NMFS were
"excessive, unduly vague, not justified as essential to conserve the listed
species, and not based upon a required analysis of economic impact," as
required under the ESA. NAHB also charged that NMFS failed to make a critical
habitat designation based on the best available scientific and commercial
data and consideration for economic impacts. 

The designation challenged by NAHB encompasses a geographic region spanning
150 watersheds, river segments, bays and estuaries throughout Washington,
Oregon, California and Idaho.

NAHB NOTE: Housing is vital to local and state economies, creating jobs and
generating taxes and wages that positively influence the quality of life.
Find out more about this crucial component of the economy at
<>. Also, NAHB's publication,
Housing: The Key to Economic Recovery, explains just how housing has led the
economy to recovery. This publication is available free of charge on NAHB's
website, at <>.

ABOUT NAHB: The National Association of Home Builders is a Washington-based
trade association representing more than 205,000 members involved in home
building, remodeling, multifamily construction, property management,
subcontracting, design, housing finance, building product manufacturing and
other aspects of residential and light commercial construction.  Known as
"the voice of the housing industry," NAHB is affiliated with more than 800
state and local home builders associations around the country.  NAHB's
builder members will construct about 80 percent of the almost 1.6 million new
housing units projected for 2002, making housing one of the largest and most
powerful engines of economic growth in the country.

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, any copyrighted work in this message is distributed under fair use without profit or payment for non-profit research and educational purposes only. [Ref.]

Back to Current Edition Citizen Review Archive LINKS Search This Site