From: Jeff Barnard, Associated Press
Published December 1, 2004 12:00 AM

Bush Administration Proposes Cuts in Federally Designated Areas to Save Salmon from Extinction

GRANTS PASS, Oregon − The Bush administration has proposed large cuts in federally designated areas in the Northwest and California meant to aid the recovery of threatened or endangered salmon. Protection would focus instead on rivers where the fish now thrive.

The critical habitat designation originally included rivers accessible to salmon, even if no fish occupied them, and covered most of Washington, Oregon and California and parts of Idaho.

Under the federal plan proposed Tuesday, critical habitats would be cut by more than 80 percent in the Northwest and 50 percent in California -- and more cuts might be ordered based on public comments over the next six months, said Bob Lohn, northwest regional administrator for NOAA Fisheries, the federal agency responsible for saving salmon from extinction.

Large areas could be cut where state and federal habitat protections are already in place, such as national forests and places where the economic benefits of development outweigh the biological benefits of habitat.

After a lawsuit brought by the National Association of Home Builders, the federal agency agreed to reconsider critical habitat designations for 13 groups of threatened or endangered salmon in the Northwest, and seven in California.

The home builders association has been chafing under the costs of getting federal permits for development in wetlands.

"Recognizing the importance of economic costs and trying to minimize the impact on industry in areas where there are low values to species and high economic costs are well in line with NAHB's policies," said Michael Mittelholzer, the association's director of environmental policy.

Source: Associated Press

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