Thursday, November 15, 2007

Conservation Groups Sue State to Block Effort to Streamline Killing of Endangered Coho Salmon

With coho salmon teetering on the brink of extinction, the California Board of Forestry recently adopted new rules to make it easier to kill the remaining coho, without addressing the well-known shortcomings of the state’s logging rules.

The Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) and Sierra Club brought suit against the salmon-killing rules in San Francisco Superior Court today, arguing that the Board has a legal responsibility to protect fish, wildlife and resources, and that rules focused exclusively on making it easier to kill endangered salmon are beyond the Board’s authority.

California’s logging rules have long been identified by state and federal wildlife agencies as allowing harm to endangered salmon. See declaration of Joe Blum, NMFS. In the summer of 2006, the Secretary of the Resources Agency proposed a broad statewide rule package to address the shortcomings of California’s Forest Practice Rules as they relate to salmon. Shortly thereafter, the Governor’s Office apparently intervened on behalf of the timber industry, and the proposed habitat protection approach was abandoned.

The coho salmon rules being challenged in this lawsuit make no improvements to logging rules to protect salmon habitat, and only apply when coho will actually be killed by the logging operation. If the logging plan will kill coho salmon, the rules require only certain limited mitigations – regardless of site conditions, nothing more can be required.

“The Board of Forestry should be tightening lax logging rules that allow even more habitat damage. Instead, they’re giving away permission to kill threatened salmon,” said Scott Greacen, Executive Director of EPIC.

Sierra Club California’s forestry advocate Paul Mason observed, “We need to protect and restore salmon habitat, not limit environmental protections and make it easier to kill endangered coho.”

The suit also seeks to overturn new Road Management Plan (RMP) regulations that do not provide for independent review, implementation, monitoring, approval, or amendment. The importance of correcting roads that adversely impact salmon and steelhead habitat with sediment is well known. Richard Gienger, long-time salmon and watershed advocate, points out that "The existing rules, if properly implemented, will prevent sedimentation from roads. Without an independent process or adequate standards, the Board of Forestry's RMP is an unwarranted and confusing duplication and a travesty compared to a real Road Management Plan that would actually have utility and long-term positive effects."

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