the film
Commentaries and editorials

New Bush Salmon Plan
is Just Plain Bad Medicine

by Patrick McGann
Lewiston Tribune, December 2, 2004

A man gets very sick. He goes to the doctor and gets a prescription for a pill per day. He starts to feel better. Just about the time he starts to feel really good, he decides he doesn't need the pill any more and stops taking it.

Guess what happens.

That's about the size of a sweeping change in course by the Bush administration on salmon and steelhead protections that have helped bring about the resurgence of Northwest fish populations.

Where there were widespread fishing closures, including right here in our front yard, we now see fisheries. All up and down the Columbia and its tributaries, up and down the coast and throughout the Puget Sound, it's the same story.

Just as the fish are starting to come back, the Bush administration orders an about-face and reverses course. It will remove 80 percent of the miles of rivers and streams the federal government has previously designated as critical to the recovery of salmon and steelhead.

The Bush administration is saying that if a creek or a river or a stretch of a river or creek is not yet being used by salmon or steelhead, then developers don't need to consider the damage their projects might do to it.

This is a big mistake.

If that had been the attitude of the Clinton administration, there would be no salmon in Issaquah Creek east of Seattle. It was virtually dead from habitat destruction. This plan would have lifted protections from it because salmon weren't there.

As it turned out, because developers were forced to consider the damage they might do, Issaquah Creek hosts growing populations of steelhead and chinook, coho and sockeye salmon, smack in the midst of some of the most intense commercial development in the Northwest. And the developers there still got rich.

Broad protections of the last decade actually stopped very few projects. What happened was they got studied. In some cases they got changed from dumb to smarter.

This is an intensely political move intended to benefit an intensely political group, the builders and developers.

It is very bad science. The cure was working. The pressure was coming off from the listings. It is just like the psycho who stops taking his drugs. The voices come back. And bad things happen.

Patrick McGann
New Bush Salmon Plan is Just Plain Bad Medicine
Lewiston Tribune, December 2, 2004

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