Follow-up

by Laura Paskus

The Union of Concerned Scientists is concerned again — this time, about the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The Union, a nonprofit coalition of scientists and citizens, has released the results of its survey of Fish and Wildlife Service employees: Forty-four percent say they have been told, "for non-scientific reasons," to refrain from making findings that actually protect endangered or threatened species (HCN, 6/23/03: ‘Jeopardy’ opinions go the way of the dodo). Eighty-nine percent of managers knew of cases where U.S. Department of the Interior political appointees "have injected themselves" into scientific determinations; 69 percent of scientists say the Service is not effective in its recovery of protected species; and 32 percent say "they are not allowed to do their jobs as scientists."

Southwestern wolves won in court: In February, the U.S. District Court for New Mexico dismissed complaints against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for its Mexican gray wolf reintroduction program. The suit, filed by the Coalition of Arizona/New Mexico Counties for Stable Economic Growth — private-property-rights activists who believe in upholding "private rights on federal lands" such as mining and grazing — sought to stop the eight-year-old reintroduction program (HCN, 5/27/02: Wolves still struggle in the Southwest). The coalition claimed that the agency improperly imported wolves from other areas, that the wolves were hybrids, and that losses to ranching operations were under-represented. The judge disagreed.

A die-off of young salmon in the Klamath River in 2002 is coming back to haunt fishermen — and consumers (HCN, 6/23/03: Sound science goes sour). According to California’s Press Democrat, the state’s Department of Game and Fish predicts that there will be fewer salmon for ocean fishermen to catch next year. Only 33,200 three-year-old chinook salmon returned to the Klamath to spawn last fall, compared with 192,000 in 2003. That means the Pacific Fisheries Management Council and NOAA Fisheries will probably enact restrictions to protect the fish that survived. There’s a lesson in economics here, too: The salmon that do make it to dinner plates next year will cost more than usual, predict local fishermen.

© High Country News