Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, October 11, 2017

Contact: Brett Hartl, (202) 817-8121,

House Republicans Push Two Bills Undermining Protections for Endangered Salmon

WASHINGTON— The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans will hold a hearing tomorrow on two pieces of legislation that would weaken protections for endangered salmon, steelhead and sturgeon nationwide.

H.R. 3144 by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R. Wash.) would undo a series of court decisions finding that more needs to be done to save Columbia River salmon and steelhead. And H.R. 3916 from Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.) would punitively transfer all management of salmon and similar fish from the National Marine Fisheries Service to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The bills were introduced after career scientists at Marine Fisheries made fish-management recommendations — including changes to dam operations and dam removal — that displeased Calvert and McMorris Rodgers.

“These bills are ugly attempts to intimidate career scientists who are trying to protect endangered salmon from going extinct,” said Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Salmon face many barriers to recovery, but more and more, it’s political interference by Republican members of Congress that’s putting these species on a fast track to extinction.”

Taking management of anadromous fish — those that are born and breed in freshwater, but spend most of their adult lives in the ocean — away from the National Marine Fisheries Service would be a disaster for endangered salmon and steelhead. Despite the two agencies having roughly equivalent budgets for endangered species, the Fish and Wildlife Service is charged with conserving more than 1,400 endangered species, while Marine Fisheries only manages about 95 endangered species.

“With Republicans in Congress refusing to properly fund the Fish and Wildlife Service, adding several dozen steelhead and sturgeon species to the agency’s responsibility would be disastrous for these iconic marine animals and crippling to recovery efforts for other endangered species,” said Hartl.

H.R. 3144 would overrule multiple court decisions that determined that conservation measures for salmon and steelhead in the Columbia and Snake rivers were inadequate and could not ensure multiple species of salmon would not go extinct. This year only 159 individual Snake River sockeye salmon returned to spawn, the second lowest return in the last 10 years.

The legislation would not only prevent additional conservation measures to protect salmon but would also prohibit the Fisheries Service from even considering the feasibility of removing four dams on the Snake River.

“Salmon are some of the Pacific Northwest’s most culturally important and iconic endangered species, but Rep. McMorris Rodgers would happily let them go extinct to benefit special interests,” said Hartl.  

Since January congressional Republicans have launched 49 legislative attacks against the Endangered Species Act or particular endangered species. Since the Republican takeover of the House of Representatives in 2011, more than 281 attacks have been instigated.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.5 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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