PORTLAND, Ore. — Just one month after oil began spilling into the Gulf of Mexico — crushing wildlife and fishing communities — and on the eve of Endangered Species Day, the Obama administration announced today that, instead of employing sound science and following the Endangered Species Act, it will stick with the Bush administration’s failed analyses and strategies for endangered wild salmon on the Columbia and Snake rivers in the Pacific Northwest. This was the Obama administration’s first attempt at a plan of their own for these iconic creatures.
"This is a disappointing decision from the administration,” said Rebecca Wodder, President of American Rivers. “These fish are truly one-of-a-kind — the only salmon on the planet that travel as far and as high. Their habitat is equally unique, providing the largest, wildest, highest, coldest salmon habitat in the lower 48, and our best chance of protecting and restoring Columbia and Snake salmon in the face of climate change. We can recover salmon and restore the Snake River in a way that works for local communities and the region’s economy, and we should embrace that path, not shy away from it."
The Obama salmon plan is an attempt to mitigate the harmful impacts of federal dams on endangered salmon and steelhead populations. But despite strong objections from fisheries biologists, former Northwest governors, and people and businesses across the nation, the Obama administration has taken no action to address the effects of climate change on rivers and salmon populations, and has effectively lowered the bar for protection of endangered species across the country.
“The administration has chosen to wear blinders regarding the impacts of climate change on salmon,” said John Kostyack, the executive director of the National Wildlife Federation’s Wildlife Conservation and Global Warming program. “The science tells us that our rivers and lakes are warming. This administration had an opportunity to confront this problem and to protect salmon from the impacts from climate change. Instead it elected to ignore the impacts and defend a discredited strategy written by the previous administration.”
In a speech before the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2009, President Obama stated that "For more than three decades, the Endangered Species Act has successfully protected our nation's most threatened wildlife, and we should be looking for ways to improve it — not weaken it.” Unfortunately, the plan released today diverges sharply from this goal by undermining one of the Act’s key protective measures.
“It’s sad, but clear, that NOAA and its fisheries service have not gotten the President’s message,” said Zeke Grader, the executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations. “Today’s actions tell us there has been no change from the disastrous policies of the past 15 years that failed to protect endangered fish while endangering fishing jobs and fishing economies. Fishing communities deserved better than this.”
Salmon advocates maintain that the plan released today is illegal under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and largely ignores the impact federal dams have on threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead in the Columbia-Snake River Basin. In the past decade, the courts have rejected two similarly weak salmon plans.
“We believed the President when he said he would follow science and strengthen the ESA, but the administration has seemingly allowed regional political pressure to trump science and law,” said Brock Evans, President of the Endangered Species Coalition. “Tomorrow is Endangered Species Day. We should be celebrating and working to protect America’s endangered species, but instead, for Columbia Basin salmon, we’re mourning. Even so, make no mistake — we’re not done fighting to save species like wild salmon. They are simply irreplaceable.”
Nicole Cordan, Save Our Wild Salmon, firstname.lastname@example.org
503.230.0421, ext. 12 or 503.703.3733 (cell)
Michael Garrity, American Rivers, email@example.com
John Kostyack, National Wildlife Federation, firstname.lastname@example.org
Brock Evans, Endangered Species Coalition, email@example.com