Time to Take Action
Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Upholding rural Americans' rights to grow food,
own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.

Property Rights Threatened By Federal Government’s Newly Proposed Hatchery Salmon Policy

On May 28, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries) announced a new, and misguided, policy that flies in the face of Pacific Legal Foundation’s landmark court victory in Alsea Valley Alliance v. Evans (2001)—one of the most groundbreaking environmental decisions of the last decade that protects private property owners from federal mismanagement of Pacific salmon and steelhead under the Endangered Species Act.

Small business owners, homeowners, city residents, and country folks will all continue to experience unnecessary loss of employment, devaluation of property, general deterioration of their quality of life, and will continue to live under the threat of civil or criminal penalties for felling a tree, applying fertilizer or pesticides on their lawns, putting water to beneficial use, and a litany of other common, otherwise lawful activities associated with private property ownership and land use—all as a result of the newly proposed fish management policy.

In response to the government’s unfortunate action, PLF is gearing up for a major legal assault against the federal bureaucracy and is calling upon all its friends to support this effort.

In the Alsea case, U.S. District Judge Michael Hogan ruled that NOAA Fisheries acted illegally by counting only naturally spawned salmon and disregarding abundant hatchery spawned salmon when deciding whether or not to list the Oregon Coast coho as a protected species. (Respected fisheries biologists have repeatedly confirmed that hatchery salmon and “wild” salmon are the same fish.) Consequently, federal fish managers acting pursuant to the Endangered Species Act were ordered to count salmon whether born in the wild or in a hatchery. Last February, PLF successfully defeated environmental activists’ appeal of the decision at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and in June the court denied their petition for reconsideration.

Caving in to the heavy lobbying of radical environmentalists, NOAA Fisheries’ proposed policy purports to comply with the Alsea decision, but in fact it does not. Instead, the agency announced it would nevertheless base its listing determinations on whether the current ecosystem for each individual population is adequate to sustain and grow the numbers of the naturally spawning fish without the hatchery fish. Based on this alarming and illegal listing model, the agency also announced that it wants to retain 26 bogus Endangered Species Act listings for Pacific salmon and steelhead populations, including the Oregon Coast coho, and add a new one even though the salmon are not at risk of extinction! Consequently, PLF has filed a “Notice of Intent to Sue” on behalf of California and Pacific Northwest organizations and citizens who provide food and fiber products and homes for their communities and our nation — i.e., everyday people who are sick and tired of misguided environmental policies that displace common sense to everyone’s detriment.

Personal and Economic Hardships—The Stakes Are High
All across the western states, Americans have suffered from the federal government’s actions to supposedly restore fish populations that are in NO danger of extinction. In a broad sense, unnecessary salmon regulations have severely injured the western states’ economies, increasing the costs of almost every sector—homebuilding, transportation, power generation and pricing, agriculture, education, and natural resource management. For example,

  • In Idaho, water rights holders have been forced to leave their water in streams for nonthreatened fish. Under the new listings these farmers, ranchers, and municipalities will be forced to comply with costly and unnecessary regulatory red tape before they can use any of their water.
  • In Washington, farmers in the Methow Valley have lost the use of their water, and property owners and timber owners have had the use of their land taken from them through imposition of egregious “stream buffers.” The new fish policy will perpetuate these losses.
  • In Oregon, Klamath Basin farmers have lost their livelihoods due to illegal prohibitions on water use caused by the listing of Southern Oregon/Northern California coho salmon as a threatened species. The past listings resulted in an estimated loss of $59.3 million of crop value in 2001. At the same time, the natural fiber industry has been devastated. Similar losses can be expected in the future under the new policy.
  • In California, Central Valley irrigators face costly and unnecessary permitting requirements, and even the loss of their water use, for the purpose of “protecting” abundant salmon. Recently, the Westlands Water District lost the use of 115,000 acre-feet of its water allotment, specifically due to the unlawful listings. The loss of this water, which would have produced crops on 42,600 acres, cost the district $62 million and 950 jobs, and cost the State of California 4,500 jobs. Meanwhile, one private property owner in California was prevented from cutting six trees, the only marketable ones on his property, because NOAA Fisheries ruled his trees provided valuable habitat for listed coho salmon!

Every one of these devastating losses will be continued and exacerbated by the federal government’s proposed hatchery policy and related salmon listings. The Bush Administration, through NOAA Fisheries, must stop capitulating to environmental activists who falsely assert that hatchery fish “threaten” the ecology of wild fish. Instead, federal fish managers must recognize that hatcheries do play a vital role in contributing to healthy salmon populations.

PLF needs your financial support to stop the federal government from extending these economic and personal hardships to so many people in the west. PLF will do all it can to ensure listings under the ESA are based on solid science and the rule of law rather than political pressure from the strident environmental lobby in this country.


NOTE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, any copyrighted
material  herein is distributed without profit or payment to those who have
expressed  a  prior interest in receiving this information for non-profit
research and  educational purposes only. For more information go to:






Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:15 AM  Pacific

Copyright © klamathbasincrisis.org, 2004, All Rights Reserved