Salmon advocates to federal court: Obama plan as fishy as Bush document

BOISE — Idaho Rivers United and a coalition of fishing, business and conservation organizations asked a federal judge today to declare President Obama’s latest Columbia and Snake river salmon management plan illegal.

The coalition’s filing for summary judgment marks what salmon advocates hope is the beginning of the end in a series of legal challenges over flawed recovery plans that has stretched more than a decade. This is the fourth government plan the coalition has sought to overturn.

“It’s very disappointing that the Obama administration has allowed a few industrial river users to dictate its approach to salmon recovery,” said IRU Assistant Policy Director Greg Stahl. “I feel like I’ve been cast in a horror movie. This same lousy plan, which is clearly inadequate for Idaho’s salmon and steelhead, just keeps coming back to life.”

In considering the 2008 Biological Opinion it inherited from the Bush administration, the Obama team adopted and later integrated a document it called the Adaptive Management Implementation Plan. The resulting 2010 Biological Opinion, Stahl said, “is a stop-gap measure that doesn’t really do anything to recover salmon populations.”

“The Western Division of the American Fisheries Society called this plan inadequate,” Stahl said. “Even NOAA’s own scientists have raised critical issues. But NOAA ignored the science and the experts, choosing instead to adopt the old Bush plan dressed in a new costume.”

According to the coalition’s filing, the 2010 Biological Opinion augments the flawed approaches of the past with new defects. For example, the new plan details the threats posed by climate change, but it proposes no new actions to address climate impacts.

“This is just the latest in a long string of missed opportunities,” Stahl said. “Idaho’s salmon climb higher and swim farther than any on Earth. Unfortunately this administration has refused to follow science and take the actions needed to protect these truly remarkable fish.”

Stahl said it is time to quit treading water and to apply the measures that will lead to real and lasting recovery. 

“It’s time to bring together the region’s diverse interests — farmers, anglers, environmentalists, utilities, rail and barge operators, and state and federal stakeholders—to help craft an inclusive, comprehensive and long-lasting solution,” Stahl said.