Delay for the "Oregon way'

  Oregon's Gov. John Kitzhaber has been trying to protect salmon on state and private land - and keep the fish off the endangered species list. Now, he says, the National Marine Fisheries Service threatens to upset his attempt at "managing our resources the Oregon way."

Kitzhaber's Oregon Plan would protect salmon through voluntary efforts by landowners. By encouraging cooperation among agencies, scientists and the timber industry, the state hopes to prevent the listing of coho salmon under the Endangered Species Act.

But the National Marine Fisheries Service, the federal agency responsible for managing endangered marine species, wants the state to impose stricter standards, including 30-foot-wide unlogged buffer zones for most streambanks.

The Fisheries Service's approach has been loudly criticized by the governor's office and the timber industry, who accuse the agency of going outside the collaborative process. "Having a big news conference and saying "the scientists have spoken" isn't very respectful of a collaborative effort," says Jim Martin from the governor's office.

"They're saying "if you don't do this, we'll list," " says Kelly Conover of the Weyerhaeuser Corp. "We have a process in place to review their concerns, but they decided this wasn't an adequate process."

"None of this should be a surprise," responds Rob Jones of the Fisheries Service. A year ago, the agency signed an agreement with Kitzhaber stating that the Fisheries Service would recommend changes in forest management. Jones says the proposal will now be submitted to the Oregon Plan committee for further discussion.

Despite the controversy, Martin believes "the Oregon way" will prevail. "People who say that this is the death of the Oregon Plan have been a little premature. We've hit a speed bump here, but the plan is stronger than any one collaborator."

*Michelle Nijhuis

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