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New Salmon Recovery Plan - Flexible or Flawed?

November 23, 2009

PORTLAND, Ore. - Years of debate about how to restore endangered Northwest salmon and steelhead may be coming to a close, depending on what happens today in a Portland courtroom. Federal Judge James Redden will hear the U.S. government's reasoning behind its most recent fish recovery plan, and plan opponents also will testify.

Conservation and fishing groups say the plan doesn't do enough to save the fish and relies too heavily on emergency backup measures if wild fish numbers continue to decline. Their attorney, Todd True with Earthjustice, says the case is not only about fish, but about jobs and communities that depend on them.

"There are ways to bring that economy back, but they will require change to the status quo way of running the river. There's room enough for all - but not if we keep doing the same old things."

It's up to Redden to decide if the new plan meets the requirements of the Endangered Species Act; he has said three previous federal plans did not. His decision may come before year's end.

Former Oregon State University professor Jane Lubchenco, who now heads the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the federal agency responsible for the fish plan, will attend the hearing. She has called the plan "flexible...and effective."

Commercial fishermen and guides from Alaska to California also have arrived in Portland. They're hoping today's hearing will change Lubchenco's mind, says steelhead guide Jeff Hickman, Portland, a hunter/angler organizer for the Sierra Club.

"We're glad that Dr. Lubchenco is coming. We hope she listens carefully and realizes that the plan the Administration has proposed is deeply flawed. If she listens and learns from this hearing, it'll be good news for our salmon and our communities."

The hearing begins at 10 a.m. today at the U.S. Courthouse, 1000 S.W. Third Ave., Portland.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR