NW Salmon ESA De-Listing Petitions Fall Short Of Legal, Scientific Standards
By accepting five new petitions to de-list 15 salmon and steelhead populations, NMFS lowers the bar for future de-listings – or listings
Salmon Policy Coordinator
503.827.5700 x. 13
2/11/2002 -- Portland, Ore. -- Trout Unlimited today criticized the National Marine Fisheries Service’s acceptance of five new petitions seeking to remove 15 populations of endangered or threatened Northwest salmon and steelhead from the Endangered Species List. The petitions fail to meet the agency’s own standards for such actions and are based on tenuous legal precedent, according to TU.
After the widely misinterpreted decision last fall of U.S. District Judge Michael Hogan, which found that NMFS’ rules for separating hatchery and wild salmon populations for ESA protection were faulty, several interest groups clamored to use the decision to escape federal protections afforded listed fish by the ESA. The Hogan decision was stayed by the federal Ninth Circuit court in December pending an appeal by conservation groups, leaving the questions surrounding listings of mixed wild and hatchery populations unsettled. Still, interest groups have continued to seize on an unfounded Hogan standard by filing hastily prepared and sub-standard de-listing petitions.
“These petitions represent little more than an attempt to capitalize on a decision still very much in question and to clog the docket with specious arguments having little, if any, scientific or legal footing,” said Kaitlin Lovell, TU salmon policy coordinator. “NMFS is doing a disservice to the very species it is charged with protecting by spending limited resources on these petitions, especially when they have to turn their backs to their own standards to do so.”
Trout Unlimited has repeatedly filed letters with NMFS detailing the failures of the various de-listing efforts to meet NMFS own standards, but the agency has continued to accept most petitions. The five petitions accepted today were among six submitted; only one was rejected for requesting action that is impermissible under the Endangered Species Act. Today’s action leaves 15 of the 26 West Coast ESA listings exposed after the Hogan decision under challenge.
“It would behoove NMFS to adhere to its own standards for these types of actions and to justify their decisions on settled law instead of on cases being challenged,” Lovell said. “But if they’re content to widen the door for de-listing actions, we’d have to assume a similar increase in petitions to list could very well follow.”
Trout Unlimited in December prepared a petition to list only the wild stocks of Oregon coast coho on the heels of the Hogan decision. While the Ninth Circuit stay rendered that petition unnecessary, it was submitted to NMFS on behalf of 15 conservation groups as comment for its ongoing hatchery policy review. TU and its partner groups maintain that the only legally viable solution that will give wild salmon populations the protection they require is to list them separately under the ESA.
For more information: Jeff Curtis, TU Western Conservation Director, 503.827.5700 x.11