New White Paper: Feds' Critical Habitat Rule Strikes Another Blow to Pacific Salmon Recovery


News Release August 11, 2005

ATTN: Environment Editor/Reporter

Contact: Kaitlin Lovell, TU Salmon Policy Coordinator: 503.827.5700 x. 13

New White Paper: Feds’ Critical Habitat Rule Strikes Another Blow to Pacific Salmon Recovery

Proposed last year, final rule announcement expected August 15

(PORTLAND, Ore.) – The Bush administration is expected to release its final rule on salmon critical habitat on Monday, August 15, 2005. A new report explains how the administration’s habitat rule will remove longstanding protections for the rivers and streams where salmon live and harm the people and communities that care about salmon. Monday’s announcement will be the latest in a series of anti-salmon recovery policies released by the Bush administration that continue to confound the science community, conservation groups, and even federal courts.

A Place Called Home: Why Critical Habitat is Essential to the Recovery of Salmon and Steelhead (pdf, 3MB) analyzes how the administration’s proposal threatens salmon recovery throughout Washington, Oregon, California and Idaho in three important ways.

1) Eliminates protection for vitally important but currently unoccupied habitat

Salmon recovery depends on restoring healthy rivers, streams, estuaries and shorelines where salmon once lived. However, the new critical habitat rule would eliminate protection for virtually all currently unoccupied habitats.

Take, for example, Oregon’s famed Deschutes River, where a hydropower project has blocked passage of salmon and steelhead from its upper reaches since it was built in 1964. An agreement forged among 22 parties over years of negotiations, signed in 2004, provides for salmon and steelhead passage above the dams again, back into nearly 200 miles of their historical habitat. However, since no salmon or steelhead live above the dams now, under the administration’s new critical habitat rule, all the stream reaches that stand to be reopened will be unprotected, leaving them vulnerable to degradation and pollution by the time the fish arrive. Fish protections gained in dozens of other hydropower negotiations currently underway stand to be rendered nearly moot by the rule in a similar way.

2) Trades habitat protection for policies and plans that were never intended to protect salmon

The administration proposal would remove habitat protection under the Endangered Species Act in favor of inadequate protections under the Northwest Forest Plan, the Oregon Plan for Salmon, and forest plans in Washington and California, among others. The proposal would also exempt protection for the entire mainstem of the Columbia River, the heart of Northwest salmon country, based on a plan that has been declared illegal by a federal judge These plans do not provide adequate substitutes for proper designation of critical habitat.

3) Further rolls back critical habitat protections based on unfair economic considerations
The proposed rule lowers the bar even further yet by eliminating critical habitat protections in some places based on a faulty cost-benefit analysis that ignores virtually any of the benefits – economic, social, ecological and otherwise – of healthy salmon populations and clean water.

Other report highlights:

  • Stories of people who depend on salmon and steelhead for their livelihoods and way of life.
  • Profiles of special places throughout the Northwest threatened by the administration’s proposal.
  • Examples of how protecting salmon habitat safeguards clean drinking water, sustains fishing communities, and maintains our Northwest quality of life.

For more information:

Kaitlin Lovell, Trout Unlimited
(503) 827-5700, ext13

Jan Hasselman, National Wildlife Federation
206-285-8707, ext105

Susan Holmes, Earthjustice
(202) 667-4500, ext204

Trout Unlimited is North America’s leading coldwater fisheries conservation organization, with 140,000 members dedicated to the protection and restoration of trout and salmon fisheries and their watersheds.