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Know the West

Judge nixes salmon plan

  Oregon's Democratic Gov. John Kitzhaber had high hopes that his plan for saving coastal coho salmon from extinction could stave off listing the fish as endangered, and set an example of stewardship for other Western states.

The "Oregon Plan" featured collaboration among private landowners, who own 65 percent of the salmon's habitat, the local timber industry and citizens concerned about the disappearance of the once-abundant native fish.

Kitzhaber last year won the support of a key federal agency that lists species as endangered - the National Marine Fisheries Service. But now, Kitzhaber's plan seems dead, and a listing of the fish inevitable.

Ruling on a lawsuit filed by environmentalists, federal Judge Janice Stewart has given the Fisheries Service until Aug. 3 to reconsider its decision not to list the coho. The judge was convinced by statements from critics such as Bill Bakke, director of the Native Fish Society, who said, "It's going to take many Kitzhaber-type administrations and follow-through by government and at the local level to make this a success story. And we don't have any assurance that's going to happen."

Kitzhaber, clearly upset at the judge's ruling, ordered the state to appeal. Represented by the Justice Department, the Fisheries Service said it also would appeal the judge's decision.

Kitzhaber's collaborative plan hinged on a state tax on timber, but included a clause terminating the tax if a federal endangered listing were approved. Environmentalists had attacked the clause as "blackmail," while Judge Stewart called it a "self-inflicted wound."

* Carlotta Collette