Statement by Jeff Curtis, TU's Western Conservation Director
7/27/2000 -- -- Contact:
*Jeff Curtis, TU Western Conservation Director: 503-827-5700; 503-351-2492 (cell)
*Alan Moore, TU Western Communications Coordinator: 503-827-5700; 503-319-2210 (cell)
*Maggie Lockwood, TU Director of Press Relations: 703-284-9425
July 27, 2000. Portland, OR. A little more than five years ago, U.S. District Court Judge Malcolm Marsh admonished the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) for its Northwest salmon recovery efforts, saying they were "too heavily geared towards a status quo . . . when the situation literally cries out for a major overhaul." Judge Marsh's decision is why we're all here today.
Simply put, the documents released today do not measure up to the Judge's reasonable and accurate assessment. This is not a complete overhaul. The draft biological opinion released today by NMFS offers little more than a tune-up, and is grounded in the faulty assumption of some that the region - and the salmon - have time to tinker with peripheral fixes while the heart of the problem - the four lower Snake dams - continues killing salmon.
The Administration is saying that we have time -- five to 10 years, maybe longer -- to tinker with salmon "habitat improvements" and the creation of "salmon sanctuaries" before we need to make any serious decisions as to whether or not to remove the most serious habitat threat to wild Snake River Salmon -- the four lower Snake River dams. We have salmon habitat and salmon sanctuaries, but they're just either blocked by the four dams or buried underwater behind them.
The sad, simple fact is that time has literally run out on wild Snake River salmon. A Trout Unlimited-sponsored study completed by a well-respected biologist last year found that if conditions don't change, wild spring and summer chinook will be functionally extinct by 2017 -- a fact that was confirmed last year when two of seven wild Snake River spring and summer chinook indicator stocks had zero adults return to spawn.
Do the math: A five- to 10-year delay coupled with the seven to nine years required for dam removal puts the salmon right to the edge of extinction or, in a worse case scenario, into the precipice of extinction. In the last five years, Judge Marsh's decision has apparently fallen on deaf ears and as a result, time has run out for the salmon.
Wild Snake River salmon need boldness by the Administration and the recognition that we no longer have the luxury of time. The plan that was released today is not bold and it fails to recognize that time has run out for the Snake River salmon. If allowed to go forward in its current form, it may well be a death sentence for the salmon.