September 29, 2003
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
FISHERIES SERVICE ANNOUNCES PENDING DECISION ON SALMON AND STEELHEAD HABITAT PROTECTION
BUSH ADMINISTRATION MAY ACT FIRST TO DE-LIST SALMON AND STEELHEAD SPECIES
The U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service announced today that it intends to consider re-designating Critical Habitat for 20 species of salmon and steelhead along the entire west coast by January 2005. A draft decision is due in June 2004. The Service also reiterates its intention to reconsider whether salmon and steelhead species with hatchery populations qualify for federal Endangered Species Act protections. The announcement can be found in the Federal Register at http://www.epa.gov/fedreg/EPA-SPECIES/2003/September/Day-29/e24568.htm
"Though we're pleased that the fisheries service may re-establish habitat protections for salmon and steelhead, we remain concerned that the Bush administration will attempt to use every opportunity to weaken or eliminate environmental protections," said David Hogan, Rivers Program Coordinator for the Center for Biological Diversity. "Conservationists will be watching closely to ensure that habitat protections do not again fall prey to the anti-environmental policies of the Bush Administration."
Critical Habitat plays a vital role in the workings of the Endangered Species Act. Government data show that species with designated habitat are not only less likely to be suffering a decline but are twice as likely to be recovering.
Most of the steelhead and salmon species previously had critical habitat, but lost it in April 2002 when the Bush administration refused to defend the Fisheries Service against a lawsuit brought by the National Association of Home Builders. Developers contributed heavily to the Bush election campaign and won big when the administration simply withdrew the habitat protections rather than defend its own wildlife agency against their charges. The Fisheries Service only agreed to consider re-establishing the habitat protections after a lawsuit by a coalition of 7 environmental and fishing groups including the Center for Biological Diversity, Environmental Protection Information Center, Institute for Fisheries Resources, Oregon Natural Resources Council, Pacific Coast Federation of Fisherman's Associations, and Pacific Rivers Council, represented by Earthjustice.