More than 85,000 Citizens Denounce Bush Administration's Salmon Plan
New Salmon Plan Sets Recovery Efforts Back A Decade Washington, DC - More than 85,000 citizens asked the Bush administration to withdraw its latest plan to manage endangered wild salmon and steelhead and deliver a new plan that will recover healthy populations of fish in letters delivered today by salmon advocates.
"The administration's plan would spend six billion dollars over 10 years to merely slow the decline of these legendary fish, and that's simply not good enough," said Rebecca Wodder, president American Rivers. "Tens of thousands of citizens are calling for a plan that will recover abundant wild salmon and boost the businesses and communities that depend on them, and that requires restoring the rivers in which they live."
The letters were submitted during the official public comment period for the new Federal Salmon Plan put forth by the Bush administration in early September. In May of 2003, federal court Judge Redden ruled that a pre- existing plan relied too heavily on provisions that were insufficient and unlikely to occur; therefore, the plan was deemed illegal under the Endangered Species Act. As a result the judge ordered the plan to be rewritten, improved and strengthened within the year. However, in their letters to President Bush, citizens say that the new plan is even worse - abandoning the goal of recovery for wild salmon and lacking even the necessary measures to ensure their survival.
"The plan is a Trojan Horse. Instead of being a salmon recovery tool, it's a backdoor effort to reinterpret the Endangered Species Act and downgrade the requirements for salmon recovery," said Charles Gauvin, president Trout Unlimited. "No one ever said salmon recovery would be easy, but perversely, under this administration's plan it will be virtually impossible because the hard stuff isn't effectively addressed."
No serious scientist disputes that hydroelectric dams along the Columbia and Snake rivers are far and away the leading killers of salmon and steelhead. NOAA Fisheries own documents state that the dams are allowed to kill as many as 86 percent of out-migrating juvenile salmon. Yet the draft salmon plan, while acknowledging this harm, embraces a strategy that largely leaves current dam operations in place and would allow salmon to continue to decline.
"While we have experienced unusually good ocean conditions in the last few years, we have also experienced unusually bad policy decisions. The ocean conditions probably won't last and we hope the policies won't either," said Bill Sedivy, executive director Idaho Rivers United. "Population trends for many key salmon species have actually been in decline since 2001, and adult returns of spring and summer Chinook were about half of what was predicted in 2004. This plan won't help salmon or the people of the Northwest who depend on salmon."
Restoring healthy runs of wild salmon would bring many benefits to the region. The Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations estimates that if Columbia and Snake river salmon are restored, we could see up to an additional $500 million per year in commercial fishing revenue to the region and as many as 25,000 new family wage jobs. The Idaho Fish and Wildlife Foundation estimates that a restored Snake River salmon and Steelhead fishery would be worth at least $170 million per year. In addition, the Army Corps estimates that removing the four lower Snake River dams to restore a free-flowing river would generate over $300 million in recreation-related economic benefits to the region - more than ten times the recreational value of the reservoirs behind the four dams.
"By redefining salmon recovery as simply avoiding extinction rather than achieving abundant, self- sustaining harvestable populations, the new federal plan ignores the spirit of the Endangered Species Act and ignores the diverse groups that depend on fishable salmon runs," said Gene Karpinski, executive director U.S. Public Interest Research Group. "In this way, the Bush administration, which operates the largest killer of salmon - the dams, skirts responsibility and leaves salmon and salmon-dependent communities to fend for themselves."
"This reckless plan is truly a case of the fox guarding the hen-house in typical Bush administration fashion," said Carl Pope, executive director Sierra Club. "This is yet another example of decisions based on politics and money while scientists, businesses, anglers and environmentalists are pushed aside and the salmon disappear. As our country celebrates the 200th anniversary of the Lewis and Clark expedition, we should be honoring their legacy by protecting salmon."
The costs of lower Snake River dam removal are manageable. Expert analysis has shown that the power produced by the lower Snake River dams can be replaced with clean, renewable energy and conservation, and that doing so would provide an economic boost to the region. Additionally, a revitalized rail system could easily handle the cargo currently shipped by lower Snake River barges at competitive rates and would bring more economic potential to eastern Washington than the heavily subsidized lower Snake River shipping channel.
"The American people have spoken - and they said they don't want salmon on life support. They don't want endless legal battles. They don't want taxpayer money thrown into ineffective and expensive technofixes," said Larry Schweiger, president National Wildlife Federation. "They want real salmon recovery. They want healthy, strong salmon and lots of them. They want salmon for their children and their children's children."