Our Klamath Basin
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Group sues to delist
By MITCH LIES Oregon Staff Writer
organization representing Washington and Oregon
farmers March 4 sued the National Marine Fisheries
Service claiming it illegally listed Columbia and
Willamette River steelhead as threatened.
Bolstered by a recent decision from the 9th U.S.
Circuit Court of Appeals, the Pacific Legal
Foundation is arguing in a suit filed in U.S.
District Court in Yakima, Wash., that NMFS
wrongfully excluded hatchery-raised steelhead when
calculating steelhead populations in the lower and
middle Columbia River and upper Willamette River.
The suit seeks to remove federal protection for
three steelhead species.
“For too long, Washington and Oregon residents
have paid a high price to protect fish that don’t
need protection,” managing attorney for the
foundation Russ Brooks said.
Pointing to the federal appeals court decision of
Feb. 24, Brooks argued that NMFS should throw out
the listings until it recalculates fish
populations based on what he termed “sound
The appeals court upheld U.S. District Judge
Michael Hogan’s decision that hatchery-raised
coastal coho salmon could not be distinguished
from wild stock when calculating coho populations.
Hogan wrote in his opinion that hatchery stock
interbreed with wild stock, share the same rivers,
habitat and seasonal runs.
The foundation filed the steelhead suit just weeks
before a self-imposed NMFS deadline to release
results of a fish population review.
The new numbers will include hatchery with wild
stock in determining populations for all 27 listed
salmonids, said Janet Sears, a spokeswoman for
NMFS began the review after Hogan made his Sept.
10, 2001, ruling in the Alsea Valley Alliance
“That status review has been going on now for
almost three years, and quite frankly, there is no
end in sight,” Brooks said. “What I’m hearing is
they are going to miss that March 31 deadline and
set a new deadline. Meanwhile, my clients are
sitting around suffering from these listings.”
Brooks said he filed the suit in Washington
because three of the case’s five clients are from
Washington and two of the three species inhabit
waters in Washington.
Based on recent history, he said he likes his
“The district of Oregon’s decision doesn’t control
what a Washington court does,” he said, “but the
district hit the nail on the head in reaching a
reasonable decision and another court facing the
same issues would be hard-pressed not to follow.”
The Pacific Legal Foundation is representing the
Washington State Grange, Oregon State Grange,
Washington Farm Bureau, Alsea Valley Alliance and
the Building Industry Association of Washington.
Mitch Lies is based in Salem. His e-mail address
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Thursday May 07, 2009 09:15 AM Pacific
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