Salmon plan can't stand alone

  • Salmon fishing, circa 1910

    Ore. Historical Society photo by J.F. Ford
 

Two years ago, Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber boasted that his state could do a better job of managing coho salmon than the Endangered Species Act. The Oregon Plan, he said, was an innovative approach to endangered species management on state and private land - a collaborative, mostly voluntary approach that could replace top-down federal regulations.

The promise of local solutions brought the timber industry to the table, and the governor hoped its cooperation would help to protect fish habitat on private land, where the Endangered Species Act is often difficult to enforce.

Even the National Marine Fisheries Service, the agency responsible for managing endangered marine species, went along with the $30 million plan, deciding not to include most Oregon populations of coho when it listed the California and Washington populations last year.

But critics said the Oregon Plan alone was not enough to protect the fish, and took the Fisheries Service to court. In June, the federal court agreed, and this Aug. 3 the agency listed the coho as threatened in Oregon.

By accepting Oregon's promises of future protection as a substitute for immediate regulation, said the court, the Fisheries Service had violated the Endangered Species Act (HCN, 8/3/98).

Many activists hope the federal listing will kick-start a stalled recovery process. "Things were moving incredibly slowly," says Mary Scurlock of the Pacific Rivers Council, an environmental group involved in the Oregon Plan process. "Early on, there was this pie-in-the-sky idea that (the state and the Fisheries Service) would hold hands and develop proposals together. That fell apart pretty quickly."

During the Oregon Plan negotiations, the state and the Fisheries Service butted heads over a controversial revision of the state's Forest Practices Act. Rob Jones of the Fisheries Service says that other major issues not resolved by the Oregon Plan will now be tackled by the federal recovery plan, including regulation of commercial fishing, agricultural practices, and urban development.

"We need every available tool in the toolbox," says Ken Rait of the Oregon Natural Resources Council. His group, in cooperation with the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations, led the lawsuit against the Fisheries Service. "The Oregon Plan is a step in the right direction, but we need the Endangered Species Act as a safety net," he says.

Some observers wonder if the timber industry, which was lured on board with the chance to escape another listing, is now ready to jump ship and take along its huge tracts of privately owned land. It's a possibility that has many observers watching the Oregon process closely, especially since the plan is now being imitated in other states.

For now, it looks as though everyone is willing to keep talking. In a press conference Aug. 3, flanked by an environmentalist, a private landowner and a timber industry representative, the governor said the monitoring and recovery efforts begun by the plan will continue.

A timber tax providing about half of the plan's funding is set to be canceled after the listing, but the Oregon Forest Industries Council says it wants the tax to stay in place.

"Anytime you can develop solutions locally instead of swallowing federal solutions, you're better off in the long run," says spokesman Tim Wigley. "Of course, we wish there hadn't been a listing, but we've put so much time into it that it would be a shame to back out now."

"This gives (the timber industry) a chance to put their money where their mouth is," says Rait. "It would have been ludicrous if the Oregon Plan went away just because the law of the American people prevailed upon it."

Some say the timber industry is pinning its hopes on successful appeals by the Fisheries Service and the state, while other observers think an anti-clearcutting measure on the ballot this fall has the industry scrambling to polish its public image.

"The timber industry does not want to alienate the public," says Jim Myron of Oregon Trout, an environmental group that supported the Oregon Plan after initial opposition. "It's the clear-cutting measure that's keeping industry at the table."

In the end, says Jones, the political battle may make little difference to the fish, whose numbers continue to fall. "There's only one standard for species recovery," he says. "It's not like the coho need one thing if they're listed and one thing if they're not. Giving them a title of threatened and endangered doesn't change how many are left."

* Michelle Nijhuis, HCN reporter

Continuing coverage of community-based conservation efforts is supported by a grant from the Ford Foundation.

You can contact ...

* The National Marine Fisheries Service at 503/230-5400;

* The Governor's Natural Resources Office, 503/378-3589;

* The Oregon Natural Resources Council, 503/283-6343.

High Country News Classifieds
  • GRAND CANYON DIRECTOR
    The Grand Canyon director, with the Grand Canyon manager, conservation director, and other staff, envisions, prioritizes, and implements strategies for the Grand Canyon Trust's work...
  • ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT
    Great Old Broads for Wilderness seeks a part-time Administrative Assistant to support the organization's general operations. This includes phone and email communications, office correspondence and...
  • HISTORIC LODGE AND RESTAURANT - FULLY EQUIPPED
    Built in 1901, The Crazy Mountain Inn has 11 guest rooms in a town-center building on 7 city lots (.58 acres). The inn and restaurant...
  • ONE WILL: THREE WIVES
    by Edith Tarbescu. "One Will: Three Wives" is packed with a large array of interesting suspects, all of whom could be a murderer ... a...
  • PROGRAM DIRECTOR, SALAZAR CENTER FOR NORTH AMERICAN CONSERVATION
    The Program Director will oversee the programmatic initiatives of The Salazar Center, working closely with the Center's Director and staff to engage the world's leading...
  • WILDEARTH GUARDIANS - WILD PLACES PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    Salary Range: $70,000-$80,000. Location: Denver, CO, Portland, OR, Seattle, WA, Missoula, MT or potentially elsewhere for the right person. Application Review: on a rolling basis....
  • RIVER EDUCATOR/GUIDE + TRIP LEADER
    Position Description: Full-time seasonal positions (mid-March through October) Organizational Background: Colorado Canyons Association (CCA) is a 10 year old nonprofit organization fostering community stewardship of...
  • BOOKKEEPER/ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT
    Position Description: Part-time, year-round bookkeeping and administration position (12 - 16 hours/week) $16 - $18/hour DOE Organizational Background: Colorado Canyons Association (CCA) is a 10...
  • LAND STEWARD
    San Isabel Land Protection Trust seeks a full-time Land Steward to manage and oversee its conservation easement monitoring and stewardship program for 42,437 acres in...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Ventana Wilderness Alliance is seeking an experienced forward-facing public land conservation leader to serve as its Executive Director. The mission of the Ventana Wilderness Alliance...
  • COMMUNICATIONS AND DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    The Quivira Coalition (www.quiviracoaltion.org) is a Santa Fe-based nonprofit that builds resilience on arid working lands. We foster ecological, economic, and social health through education,...
  • GRANT WRITER
    "We all love this place we call Montana. We believe that land and water and air are not ours to despoil, but ours to steward...
  • DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    The Development Director is responsible for organizing and launching a coherent set of development activities to build support for the Natural History Institute's programs and...
  • WILDLIFE PROJECT COORDINATOR
    Founded in 1936, the National Wildlife Federation (NWF or Federation) is America's largest and most trusted grassroots conservation organization with 53 state/territorial affiliates and more...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Cinnabar Foundation helps protect and conserve water, wildlife and wild lands in Montana and the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem by supporting organizations and people who...
  • TRUSTEE AND PHILANTHROPY RELATIONS MANGER,
    Come experience Work You Can Believe In! The Nature Conservancy in Alaska is seeking a Trustee and Philanthropy Relations Manager. This position is critical to...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR AT FRIENDS OF CEDAR MESA
    -The Land, History, and People of the Bears Ears Region- The Bears Ears and Cedar Mesa region is one of the most beautiful, complex, diverse,...
  • CONSERVATION SPECIALIST
    Position will remain open until January 31, 2021 Join Our Team! The New Mexico Land Conservancy (NMLC) is a non-profit land trust organization dedicated to...
  • OLIVERBRANCH CONSULTING
    Non-Profit Management Professional specializing in Transitional Leadership, Strategic Collaborations, Communications and Grant Management/Writing.
  • GREAT VIEWS, SMALL FOOTPRINT
    Close to town but with a secluded feel, this eco-friendly home includes solar panels, a graywater reuse system, tankless hot water, solar tubes, and rainwater...