Salmon in the Pacific Northwest just got a break. In late May, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the National Marine Fisheries Service must re-examine how logging affects endangered salmon before 24 federal timber sales can proceed. That may mean loggers would provide larger buffers around riparian areas, thin units instead of clear-cutting or abort some sales altogether.
Says Patti Goldman of the nonprofit group Earthjustice Legal Fund, which filed the lawsuit on behalf of a coalition of commercial fishermen: "We don't want gridlock. But the government must heed science and protect salmon."
The National Marine Fisheries Service was "bowled over" by the ruling. "We thought we were using sufficient and sound science," says agency spokesman Brian Gorman. Now, he says, it will likely take even longer for federal agencies to sell timber.
That's all part of environmentalists' plans, says Chris West of the American Forest Resource Council. "They are using salmon as a surrogate for their true agenda, which is zero cut."
If the ruling isn't challenged in the Supreme Court, it could set a precedent for how 170 upcoming timber sales are managed on public lands in Washington, Oregon and Northern California.