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June 25 is the final saga to the listing of the coho salmon to the California Endangered Species Act.  Agriculture, timber, Granges and other groups are against the listing.
The Pioneer Press grants permission for this article to be copied and forwarded.

Pioneer Press, Fort Jones, California
Wednesday, June 23, 2004
Vol. 32, No. 32 
Page 1, column 5
Coho confusion continues
* State will decide if coho salmon should be protected on June 25.

By Liz Bowen, Assistant Editor, Pioneer Press, Fort Jones, California

SISKIYOU COUNTY, CALIFORNIA – On June 7, the listing of the Oregon coastal coho salmon to the federal Endangered Species Act was declared invalid.

But on June 25, the Northern California coho may be listed to the California Endangered Species Act.

When it comes to coho salmon and the Endangered Species Acts, confusion reigns supreme.

SOSS, the Save Our Shasta and Scott Valleys and Towns coalition, has feared that extreme regulations will endanger viable agriculture in Siskiyou County. SOSS joined Farm Bureau, Cattlemen, California Timber Association, Granges and other groups to try and stop the listing to the California Endangered Species Act (ESA). They advocated using true data and correct science; even hiring an accredited fish biologist and water law attorney.

After three long years, the final decision is expected this Friday, June 25. It will be made by the California Fish and Game Commission in Crescent City.

Much has occurred during the last three years:

* Many leaders in SOSS and Siskiyou County have learned that politics has had the upper hand;

* A devastating drought in 2001 brought a water shortage crisis for both farmer and fish;

* The appointment of Bob Hattoy, a Sierra Club advocate, to the state Fish and Game Commission;

* The recall of Governor Gray Davis, a Democrat;

* The election of Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, to the office of governor;

* The implementation of a little used Department of Fish and Game code, which allowed one year to create a Recovery Strategy Plan for coho;

* Delaying tactics from various state agencies and groups;

* The appointment of Marilyn Hendrickson to the Fish and Game Commission on March 17, 2004. She was appointed by Governor Arnold and approved by the state senate. Hendrickson replaced the only other Republican on the commission, who was Mike Chrisman.

* Governor Arnold appointed Mike Chrisman as secretary of the California Resources Agency.

* The decision by the Fish and Game Commission on Feb. 4, 2003 to accept the Recovery Strategy Plan, even though SOSS, Farm Bureau, Cattlemen, California Grange, timber and other groups testified that the regulations would be too strict and result in more problems.

* Federal ESA listing on the Oregon coast for coho salmon overturned on June 7.

With the Feb. 4, 2004 commission vote on the recovery plan, the legal process for listing the coho with the California ESA was kicked back into the normal flow of things.

In late February, the decision to list the coho was published in the California Register. Then a public comment period of nearly four months opened, which is followed by the "adoption" hearing. It is scheduled on the Fish and Game Commission’s regular meeting agenda this Friday. "Adoption" means the ESA law will actually be amended to include the coho, if the commission votes that direction.

The meeting will be held at Elk Valley Rancheria, 2500 Howland Hill Road, in Crescent City.

Decisions and regulations regarding coho have been in limbo for nearly six years, since the National Marine Fisheries Service, which is now called NOAA Fisheries, listed the Southern Oregon and Northern California coho to the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA).

In 2001, advocacy environmental non-profit groups petitioned the California Fish and Game Commission to list the coho with the California ESA.

Meanwhile, many agricultural-type groups began working to stop the California listing and to reverse the federal ESA listing.

On June 7, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued the mandate that effectively ended litigation in the Alsea Valley Alliance v. NOAA Fisheries case.

The Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF) led the litigation. It is a non-profit group started in 1973.

Back in September of 2001, Judge Michael R. Hogan declared the NOAA Fisheries’ 1998 ESA listing of the Oregon coast coho invalid. The basis for the decision involved the counting of salmon.

In NOAA Fisheries’ counting, the federal agency only estimated the numbers of wild fish and did not include those coho grown in hatcheries. There has been disagreement by scientists regarding the genetics of wild and hatchery fish. The judge ruled that there is no genetic difference between the two. Since Judge Hogan’s decision, the advocacy enviro groups fought to overturn his ruling.

"As of today, (June 7,) the Oregon coast coho listing doesn’t exist," said Russell Brooks, the Pacific Legal Foundation attorney that represented Alsea Valley Alliance in the lawsuit against NOAA Fisheries.

Since June 7, NOAA officials have said they may reopen the coho listing determination, which means they are still seeking to list the Oregon Coastal coho with the ESA.

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