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For Immediate Release

Wednesday, June 29, 2005 Kris Deutschman

State Fish and Game Ignores Science and Existing Protections In Listing Coho Salmon as Endangered

Landowners, Ranchers, Farmers and Businesses

Sue State to Overturn Decision

Sacramento, CA — Citing a refusal by the California Fish and Game Commission to consider recent science and existing federal regulatory protections, a coalition of forest landowners, ranchers and farmers, joined by the California Chamber of Commerce, filed a lawsuit late Tuesday to overturn the Commission’s recent decision to list coho salmon as an endangered and threatened species.

The Commission recently listed coho salmon as "endangered" along the Central California coast, and as "threatened" along the Northern California coast to the Oregon border. The suit seeks to overturn the decision because the listing is unwarranted based on extensive third-party research and the fact that the species is already protected under the federal Endangered Species Act.

The lawsuit also cites the California Fish and Game Department’s admitted failure to provide statistically valid data on coho populations—a core element for determining a listing.

"This regulation represents an egregious example of duplicative and unnecessary government action," said David Bischel, president of the California Forestry Association. "Not a single additional fish will be protected by forcing land managers to pay twice for the same regulatory review."

"State law already requires the California Department of Forestry to deny any timber harvesting plan that would harm coho salmon," said Henry Alden, president of Gualala Redwoods Company. "We’re committed to the protection and recovery of coho salmon, but this action by the Fish and Game Commission was not about protecting the fish. This action was an effort by one state agency to seize power from another agency over who can approve timber harvest permits. Private land managers are caught in the middle."

The lawsuit references a variety of federal and state regulations that provide rigorous protection for coho populations and describes the expected new regulations as unnecessary, duplicative and costly to taxpayers and private landowners.

"The Commission’s finding that coho salmon are an endangered species is unnecessary, since existing state and federal regulations protect the species," said Charles H. Hanson, Ph.D., senior fishery biologist/principal, Hanson Environmental, Inc.

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The existing protections landowners and resource managers must adhere to include those under the:

    • Federal Endangered Species Act
    • Federal Clean Water Act
    • National Environmental Policy Act
    • Anadromous Fish Conservation Act
    • California Environmental Quality Act
    • California Keene-Nielsen Fisheries Restoration Act
    • Z’berg-Nejedly Forest Practice Act (Forest Practice Rules)
    • Porter-Cologne Clean Water Act

"The Department of Fish and Game itself acknowledges, and I agree, that the scientific information they used to support a population analysis—the core basis for listing—was inadequate to determine the abundance of coho salmon," said Dr. Hanson.

"Instead of protecting more fish, this action will greatly reduce timber yield taxes paid to local governments, reduce the number of local, family wage jobs in our rural communities, and reduce the interest among land owners to invest in their forests," said Bischel.

"The potential adverse impacts of these regulations in Humboldt County is astounding, where the forest management industry makes up about 60 percent of the county’s base economy," said J. Warren Hockaday, executive director of the Greater Eureka Chamber of Commerce.

"The significant conservation measures already in place have enhanced the quality of hundreds of miles of coho salmon spawning and rearing habitat. A wide range of management measures have been recommended, financed and implemented by the private land managers indicating their clear commitment to address these issues," said Dr. Hanson.

"Instead of taking the drastic step of a listing, the Commission and Department should work with federal agencies, landowners and other interested stakeholders to develop protection and recovery strategies for coho salmon that include improving and protecting stream habitat and monitoring ocean stocks, which significantly affect the adult salmon population going back upstream to spawn," he continued.

"From an environmental standpoint, there’s absolutely no reason for taxpayers and private land resource managers to pay twice for the very same regulations," said Ben Higgins, executive vice president of the California Cattlemen’s Association.

The California Forestry Association estimates the new regulations expected to accompany the listing to cost forest land managers more than $30 million annually. This is on top of the more than $100 million land managers continue to spend on both voluntary and cooperative restoration efforts as well as nearly $20 million in annual costs and permit fees for timber harvest plans.

"For those who understand that productive working forests in California mean more environmentally responsible wood products on the market, the Commission’s actions are very discouraging," said Bischel.

The lawsuit claims that the Commission approved the listing unlawfully. The Commission failed to undertake a formal review of all available information, failed to give adequate consideration to the adverse economic impact of its action and failed to consider the necessity of listing in light of protections already provided coho salmon, including the recovery plan adopted by the Commission with significant contributions and support from the organizations that now challenge the listing.

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