Home Builders want Salmon Count Redefinedby Associated Press
Capital Press, April 11, 2003
PORTLAND -- A group of Washington state home builders has petitioned the federal government to require that salmon from hatcheries be counted with native stocks when deciding endangered species listings.
The Building Industry Association of Washington and an allied legal group said the petition is needed to crystallize a 2001 court ruling into policy.
Adding hatchery fish to population counts could lead to the removal of many stocks from protection under the Endangered Species Act. Hatchery-produced salmon and steelhead greatly out-number the wild-spawning fish returning to most rivers.
The National Marine Fisheries Service has not counted hatchery fish in its decisions to list more than 20 groups of salmon and steelhead as threatened or endangered.
But that policy has been in question since September 2001, when a U.S. District Court judge ruled against its use in the listing of Oregon coastal coho.
Conservationists have appealed the ruling to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which is set to hear oral arguments in the case May 8.
Meanwhile, sparked by the court ruling, federal fisheries biologists are reviewing the listings of every group of salmon and steelhead on the West Coast. They are also rewriting the federal policy on hatchery fish.
A spokesman for the fisheries service said the agency has 90 days to decide whether to pursue or reject the petition.
If the petition is not rejected, the agency has one year to rule on its merit.
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