SEATTLE, March 13 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Representatives of a
broad- based coalition of conservation groups, sport and commercial fishing
organizations, and taxpayer and energy advocates today lauded new
bi-partisan Congressional legislation that would restore sound science and
fiscal responsibility to failing federal salmon recovery efforts in the
Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA) and Rep. Tom Petri (R-WI) introduced the
Salmon Economic Analysis and Planning Act (SEAPA) in the House of
Representatives today. The bill authorizes independent economic and
scientific review of federal salmon restoration efforts in the Pacific
Northwest by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and the Government
Accountability Office (GAO).
Challenging the status quo while calling for an approach that puts all
recovery options, including lower Snake dam removal, on the table,
Congressman McDermott said, "I'm not willing to practice the politics of
extinction, doing nothing until there is nothing left to do, until there
are no more wild salmon left to save. I'm willing to listen, but I'm not
willing to wait."
Failure to protect and restore endangered wild salmon in the Columbia
and Snake River Basin to healthy, sustainable levels has cost United States
taxpayers and Northwest ratepayers billions of dollars over the past two
decades. Declining runs have curtailed fisheries and hurt regional
economies throughout the Pacific salmon states of Alaska, California,
Oregon, Washington and Idaho.
"We have a responsibility to make sure that the wild salmon of the
Snake River and the rest of the Columbia Basin in the Pacific Northwest
survive and thrive for future generations. Current efforts appear to be
inadequate, despite being costly," said Congressman Petri. "We have to be
willing to do some fresh thinking and take the right actions before it's
Federal recovery efforts have been stymied and taxpayer dollars
misdirected, in large part, due to incomplete and outdated information.
"Much of the data we are relying on today to make critical decisions
for the future of the region and the nation is nearly a decade old," said
Nicole Cordan, policy and legal director for the Save Our Wild Salmon
Coalition. "We need updated, comprehensive and unbiased information so we
can evaluate, on a level playing field, all potential salmon recovery
options, including but not limited to lower Snake River dam removal. This
legislation would provide just that."
The bill calls for an updated analysis by the GAO of previous studies
on lower Snake Dam removal, including the 2002 Army Corps Environmental
Impact Statement, in order to better understand the impact on local
communities, freight transportation, irrigation, energy production, boating
and recreation, and salmon recovery. It does not endorse or authorize lower
Snake River dam removal, and provides no new authority to the Corps to call
for such action.
The proposed NAS study would examine the effectiveness of various
federal salmon recovery actions (including all four "H's:" habitat,
harvest, hatchery and hydro), and other factors that may impact salmon
populations, such as ocean conditions and global climate change.
"It is time for a critical, impartial review of our current salmon
recovery policies and scientifically credible options, so that we may
advance a sound recovery plan for the future," said Congressman Earl
Blumenauer (D- OR), one of the original co-sponsors of the bill. "We have
spent more than $8 billion dollars over 25 years to improve the Columbia
and Snake River systems for fish, and still they are losing ground."
Thirteen stocks of Columbia Basin salmon and steelhead, including all
four remaining Snake River stocks, are currently listed as endangered or
threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Populations of wild Snake
River salmon have shown little improvement since being listed in the 1990s;
most are hovering well below levels required for recovery.
"The continuing downward trend is devastating rural communities.
Fisheries are closing, recreational tourism is declining, businesses are
laying off workers, and communities are suffering," said Liz Hamilton,
executive director of the Northwest Sportsfishing Industry Association.
"This is a real problem that needs real, honest solutions. We're heading
for a political and economic train wreck if we don't stop pretending the
status quo is working. We need to take a full and fair look at all our
options for salmon recovery."
The economic and scientific studies called for in SEAPA will also
better prepare the federal government to ensure that it meets treaty
obligations with Native American tribes and with Canada, as well as its
legal obligations under the Endangered Species and Clean Water Acts.
"If we don't alter our current course, taxpayers will continue to foot
the bill for costly salmon recovery and will shoulder the massive cost of
extinction as well," said Autumn Hanna, senior program director for
Taxpayers for Common Sense. "We need an effective, fiscally responsible
federal salmon recovery strategy that is based on an examination of all
available options including lower Snake River dam removal. We urge Congress
to support this bill and authorize the necessary studies to vet this option
and protect taxpayers from billions more in wasted dollars."
SOURCE Save Our Wild Salmon