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Papers Shuffled in Federal Salmon Plan Lawsuit

October 29, 2010

BOISE, Idaho - Papers are being shuffled today in the long-running lawsuit over the federal "salmon plan" that outlines actions to recover fish listed as endangered. Conservation groups, sport fishing industry organizations, tribes and the State of Oregon are filing responses to federal scientific information related to the plan at the request of the judge overseeing the case.

Former Oregon fisheries chief Jim Martin says that federal "biological document" ignored the research of its own scientists and independent researchers.

"This plan is basically stop-gap. The triggers are too low. The response is too sluggish. By the time you get these triggers going off, and then you start the study process -- these darn fish have a good chance of going extinct."

The American Fisheries Society is an independent research-based organization that reviewed the federal proposal. Their conclusion? The plan ignores science. Martin says the bottom line is that the salmon plan so far hasn't been about research or studies at all, but about politics.

"They've been painted into a corner by the politics of the utility industry. We've got some very powerful senators who are protecting the status quo. And I think they need the judge to look independently at these arguments and just to force them to do the right thing."

Idaho sockeye salmon are one of the species affected by the lawsuit. Returns this year are better than they've been in decades, which Martin credits to more young hatchery fish being released, better ocean conditions and better in-river conditions connected to more water washing over dams to help the fish, which is something that happened because of court decisions. That extra water is not in the most recent proposed federal salmon plan, although releasing higher numbers of young fish is included.

Deb Courson, Public News Service - ID