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Commentaries and editorials

Salmon-Recovery Veteran Named Fisheries Chief

by Hal Bernton
The Seattle Times, September 8, 2001

The Bush administration yesterday named D. Robert Lohn, a Portland-based veteran of Columbia River salmon-restoration efforts, to serve as the regional director of the National Marine Fisheries Service.

The federal fisheries service (NMFS) is charged with protecting threatened and endangered runs of Northwest salmon and steelhead. In recent years, that mandate has thrust the agency into the thick of controversy as it mapped out a regionwide plan for reviving the runs and issued rules protecting the salmon.

Lohn is an attorney who leads the Fish and Wildlife Division of the Northwest Power Planning Council and previously worked for the Bonneville Power Administration. He was born in Montana, gained a bachelor's degree from Harvard and a law degree from the University of Montana.

He will head a regional office in Seattle often at odds with industry, farmers and rural politicians over salmon protection. As the scope of the salmon listings has widened in recent years, the fisheries service has found itself involved in consultations over the effects of road-building, development, logging and myriad other human activities on protected salmon.

Lohn said the fisheries service will never have enough people and resources to review all the activities affecting protected species in a timely and thorough fashion. He said he is a firm believer in President's Bush's efforts to turn more decision-making back to the local levels.

"I am very eager to use NMFS to establish the goals and then stand back and let local people make local decisions on how to meet those goal," Lohn said.

Lohn said that one of his biggest challenges will be moving forward with a 2000 biological opinion that detailed steps for recovering salmon in the Columbia River basin. Under the Clinton administration, the fisheries service took dam removal off the table for at least five years, and Bush has opposed dam removal. Instead, the focus will be on restoring salmon spawning and rearing habitat along the Columbia and tributaries.

Lohn's predecessor at the fisheries service was Will Stelle, now an attorney in Seattle. Yesterday, Stelle praised Lohn as someone who "knows the substance and knows the history" of salmon recovery.

Also yesterday, the Bush administration named William Hogarth, a 16-year veteran of the fisheries service, as the top director in Washington, D.C. He had previously served as acting assistant administrator.


Hal Bernton
Salmon-Recovery Veteran Named Fisheries Chief
The Seattle Times, September 8, 2001

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