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Mount Shasta Herald, Weed Press, Dunsmuir News - Mt. Shasta News


Lawsuit aims to alter Endangered Species Act

Updated: Wednesday, December 1, 2004 1:52 PM PST

The Pacific Legal Foundation has announced it will file a lawsuit intended to challenge provisions of the Endangered Species Act aimed at de-listing numerous species throughout California including salmon on the Klamath River.

The suit will contend, among other issues, that the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service has erred in not distinguishing between hatchery and naturally spawned fish. The policy counts only spawned fish that creates the conditions for fish to be listed as Endangered.

The PLF claims the method of counting is in violation of a court order in another lawsuit that directed agencies to include hatchery coho in the counts in the Klamath Basin and steelhead throughout the West.

Specifically, the PLF argues that "critical habitat designations throughout California violate the ESA because the federal agencies did not adequately identify the areas that are essential to species conservation and routinely relied on inadequate economic analysis in evaluating the social impact of designations as required under the act."


"The federal government has been using a flawed template to designate critical habitat," said PLF attorney Reed Hopper. "The government's strategy is to set aside as much land as possible without doing the work to determine where the species actually live and what they require to recover. The result is that species languish on the endangered species list endlessly without any real hope of being saved."

Hopper said the lawsuit will "promote species recovery by forcing the federal government to set goals and meet clear standards in designating critical habitat."

The PLF has an established record of challenging the ESA including lawsuits that the PLF says are intended to "protect human life and protect individual freedom."

In a press release on Earth day 2004, the PLF said that "environmental extremism" has been responsible for "dramatically impacting people's lives and livelihoods every day, often for species protections that are illegal or unnecessary."

Among the top five human costs of environmental extremism the PLF declares is, "Cutting people off from water to give to fish."

The statement is a direct reference to the Klamath Basin Project.

"To provide more water to 'endangered' salmon, even though there was no scientific evidence that the fish should even be listed as 'endangered,'" the report said. "Klamath farmers lost their crops and the local economy lost an estimated $200 million in crop and property value, devastating the region. Some families lost farms that had been in their families for generations."

The Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Association official position is that Klamath Basin irrigators siphoning off water for crops has been devastating to fish populations.

"The Klamath River was once the third most productive salmon river system in the United States. Today, thanks to habitat blocking dams, poor water quality and too little water left in the river, the once abundant Klamath salmon runs have now been reduced to less than 10 percent of their historic size. Some species, such as coho salmon, are now in such low numbers in the Klamath River that they are listed under the Federal Endangered Species Act," the PCFFA states. "Salmon losses in the Klamath Basin have had devastating impacts on the lower river fishing-dependent economy, putting thousands of people out of work and eliminating tens of millions of dollars annually from the economy of these rural areas and coastal ports, from Fort Bragg, CA, to Florence, OR. The need to protect depressed Klamath salmon runs has also triggered fishing closures on otherwise abundant stocks, mostly hatchery fish from the California Central Valley, all up and down the west coast, causing many indirect economic costs as well."

"The PLF is just grandstanding for media attention," said Glenn Spain of the PCFFA. "Their notice to sue is six months premature. The decision as to how the count will be done isn't due until June of next year."

Spain says the Federation "opposes the PLF in all this."

"Salmon are in trouble whether they believe it or not. The numbers are clear." Spain said. "The resource is too valuable not to have some protection to prevent extinction."

Dan Keppen of the Klamath Water Users Association that represents irrigators in the Klamath Project supports the PLF.

"The 2001 shutoff was because of the salmon. If the coho weren't listed, we would have the water we need," Keppen said.

To protect salmon, the federal government shut off water to farmers in 2001 resulting in a loss of crops with many farmers going bankrupt, some losing their farms.

Keppen contends the studies on flows needed for salmon was flawed and that counting the hatchery fish would result in the a de-listing of the salmon from endangered status.

"The hatchery fish have been in the system for a long time," Keppen said. "The PLF is saying count them all. We consider them as allies."


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