obama.opportunity-This is the start of a very important month for the endangered wild salmon and steelhead of the Columbia and Snake Rivers, and the communities that rely on them. On September 15th, the Obama Administration will report to Federal Judge James Redden on their next moves for complying with the Endangered Species Act, and protecting and restoring Northwest wild salmon and steelhead.

This issue of WSSN is part-call-to-action and part-update:

A) CALL TO ACTION – Please contact Department of Commerce Secretary Gary Locke
Formerly the governor of Washington State, Locke now leads the Department of Commerce. NOAA-Fisheries is one of the agencies within the Commerce Department. This makes Sec. Locke NOAA-Fisheries Administrator Jane Lubchenco’s direct boss. It also means that Sec. Locke  will have a lot of influence on the Federal Salmon Plan that emerges from the NOAA-Fisheries at the end of this week. He needs to hear from salmon and fishing advocates today!
Recently, the Obama administration was granted a request in federal court for yet another extension in their review of the 2008 Bush-era Salmon Plan and the administration's upcoming report to U.S. District Court Judge James Redden on what it intends to do with this plan. The new deadline is set for September 15th, 2009.

At this point, it is not clear what path the new Administration will choose. Will it stick with the failed status quo of the past or bring people together to work on an effective, forward-looking science-based solution? We will have to wait until September 15th to find out (Note: the most recent reporting deadline of August 14th has been extended by one month). At this stage, one of two basic alternatives seems likely:

(1) The new Administration could submit the 2008 Plan to the court with revisions in an attempt to satisfy the judge. Salmon and fishing advocates are highly skeptical that such a move would succeed. The judge, in his mid-May letter, identified a number of substantial improvements that would be needed in order for him to find the plan lawful under the Endangered Species Act, including a look at lower Snake River dam removal. The deficiencies of the current plan are so profound that a major overhaul would be needed. Modest tweaks will be inadequate.

(2)  Time for a Collaborative Stakeholder Process? The Administration could, in recognition of the plan’s severe inadequacies, decide instead to change course and undertake an approach that many – including newspaper editorial boards, three former governors, a growing number of senators and representatives in Congress, businesses and organizations - are calling for. The Administration should convene an inclusive, settlement process (involving e.g. fishermen, farmers, utilities and energy consumers, tribes, states) to work together to craft a legal, science-guided salmon plan that both restores endangered salmon and steelhead and ensures that local, affected communities benefit at the same time.

Counsel to the President and his Administration keeps pouring in:

Just in the past several weeks, for example, President Obama and his salmon team have received lots of advice about what to do with the failed 2008 Plan that they inherited. Here are a series of links to review some this advice:


(1) Three former Northwest governors sent a letter to President Obama urging him to abandon a 2008 Bush administration biological opinion (BiOp) for the Columbia-Snake rivers, and pull stakeholders together to create a solutions settlement table. Read more on their letter to the President.

(2) Nationally-recognized lawyer and natural resources law professor Charles Wilkinson advised President Obama that, after many years of federal failure, sleight of hand, declining salmon populations, he needed to get this important decision right, including removal of the four lower Snake River dams.

(3) New York Times, Boston Globe, Buffalo News, and Eugene Register Guard Editorials in support of solutions and dam removal options:
(4)  In late July, Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) sends a letter to President Obama urging him to craft a "stakeholders table" to solve the Columbia Basin salmon crisis in a manner that looks at all scientifically credible and economically viable options. Read the letter from Senator Merkley.
 
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