Gov't Cuts Back Pacific Salmon Habitat
Written by Associated Press - Puckstop   
Monday, 15 August 2005 04:00
The federal government has cut back the critical habitat for 19 species of threatened and endangered Pacific salmon, arguing that an earlier designation demanded by environmentalists was poorly executed and that voluntary habitat improvements will work better.

The move announced Friday reduces the miles of protected river in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and California by 80 percent ? from 167,700 miles to 33,300.

In those areas, activities such as logging, construction and livestock grazing is restricted to avoid disturbing the stream beds where the salmon migrate and spawn.

NOAA Fisheries, the federal agency responsible for bringing more than two dozen salmon and steelhead species in the Northwest and California back from the danger of extinction, agreed to revise the habitats after being sued by the National Association of Home Builders for failing to include an economic impact analysis when they were set.

The new designation includes only rivers salmon currently occupy, and it identifies whether a portion of a river is used for spawning or just migration, which will help in determining whether a nearby project could harm the fish.

The designation also exempts rivers on Indian reservations, military bases, private land with habitat conservation plans in force, and some urban areas where the economic impact on the area's businesses would be too great.

The agency estimated the economic impact of the new habitat protections for salmon at $282 million for the four states. No economic impact was listed under the previous plan.

Bob Lohn, Northwest regional administrator for NOAA Fisheries, said incentives for private landowners to restore and improve habitat would be more effective.

"I think the practical impact should be quite small," Lohn said.

Ernest Platt, chairman of the environmental committee of the National Association of Homebuilders, noted that any development would still have to comply with state and federal regulations covering clean water, wetlands protection, and prohibiting direct harm to salmon.

The designation of rivers critical to the future restoration of salmon headed toward extinction is required under the Endangered Species Act.

In the Northwest, the critical habitat designation covers streams flowing into Puget Sound in Washington, the Columbia and Snake rivers and their tributaries in Washington, Oregon and Idaho, and the Willamette River and tributaries in Oregon.

In California it covers coastal streams from Humboldt County south to San Clemente, the San Francisco Bay Area, the Sacramento River and tributaries, and the lower San Joaquin River and tributaries.

Excluded areas include portions of greater Seattle, Portland, Pendleton and the San Francisco Bay Area.

 
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