For you that thought I might have been kidding about including farm raised game in wild game numbers to raise the pot for drawing monies. What’s next including farm raise elk in the big game forecasts for each state?
New Bush policy could spell doom for wild salmon
SEATTLE – In a dramatic shift in salmon recovery policies in the Northwest, the Bush administration intends to count the hundreds of millions of fish produced in hatcheries when deciding whether salmon deserve federal Endangered Species Act protection.
The Bush Administration is expected to release a new policy that may blur the once-distinct line separating hatchery and wild salmon and clear the way for dropping federal protection for Northwest fish.
In a policy to be announced in the coming months, the administration will adopt a strategy that considers the indoor tanks and concrete raceways of hatcheries extensions of natural rivers and mountain streams where salmon spawn.
This means that salmon, long the focus of billions of dollars worth of restoration projects and bitter environmental conflicts, could more quickly be declared healthy.
Biologists annually count the carcasses of spawned out wild salmon at Hanford Reach in Eastern Washington, which is one of the richest wild salmon spawning grounds in North America. There they determine if salmon still need federal protection.
"We fear this administration is walking away from its obligations to protect wild fish," said Jan Hasselman, National Wildlife Federation.
KING 5's Gary Chittim reports
Environmental groups say the new Bush policy will lead to the loss of federal protection for salmon runs balancing on the edge of extinction.
Critics say the new policy would result in greater salmon numbers and less federal protection for Northwest salmon and waterways.
Pro-salmon groups say watching the decline of wild salmon was the only way to find out how polluted waterways, like the Duwamish, are. They say you won't get that kind of indication from an endless supply of hatchery fish.
"Instead of protecting habitat, we're getting a statement that pumping fish out of hatcheries into polluted streams and unhealthy watersheds is good enough," said Hasselman.
The policy would relieve power generators, farmers and property owners of endangered species burdens - including limits on farm irrigation and the electricity production levels of dams - imposed by the federal government.
Industry-funded groups like the Pacific Legal Foundation have said all along it's time to include hatchery fish in salmon counts and reduce the restrictions placed on industry and residents.
"The fact is the watersheds and ecosystem is very healthy," said Russell Brooks, Pacific Legal Foundation. "The rules have needed changing for a long time and it's time we had common sense and balance in environmental regulation."
The current policies separating wild and hatchery salmon have produced long and bitter legal battles.
Conservationists said such a policy is akin to declaring a species safe if it can be reproduced in a zoo, while turning over its habitat to development.
President Bush's official plan won't be released for another two months and it's already expected to face serious legal challenges from both sides of the salmon debate.