Fisheries service (NMFS) sued over steelhead listing


Active Member
Friday, March 5, 2004

Fisheries service sued over steelhead listing
Farmers group challenges designation as 'threatened'


A group representing farmers in Eastern Washington and Oregon sued the National Marine Fisheries Service yesterday, saying the agency is illegally listing Columbia River and upper Willamette River steelhead as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

The Pacific Legal Foundation argued that when counting the fish, the fisheries service must include wild and hatchery-raised steelhead, as dictated by a federal court ruling on coho salmon in Oregon in 2001.

In addition, the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Yakima, says the fisheries service must count rainbow trout, which it says are scientifically indistinct from steelhead, though rainbows remain in fresh water while steelhead migrate to the ocean.

"The government can't cherry-pick which member of a species it includes or excludes in a listing," said Russ Brooks, the foundation's managing attorney, citing a recent 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision. "These illegal steelhead listings have wreaked havoc in Washington and Oregon communities, seriously impeding private land use.

"For too long, Washington and Oregon residents have paid a high price to protect fish that don't need protection."

The lawsuit asks the court to invalidate the listings.

Fisheries service spokesman Brian Gorman said that since the 2001 ruling, known as the Alsea decision, his agency has been reviewing listings for salmon and steelhead up and down the West Coast. The issue, he said, is determining whether -- if wild fish and hatchery fish are counted together -- the populations would still be considered threatened.

Reviewing listings involves far more than simply counting how many fish there are, he said. The agency must also assess the overall health of the population and whether other conservation measures are in place to protect the fish, among other things.

The first results are due March 31, he said, and will include reviews of salmon and steelhead populations in the mid- and upper Columbia as well as the Snake River. A review of the lower Columbia is due later.

Brooks agrees the reviews are necessary, but said they're taking too long.

"The fisheries service's review has been going on for three years. I'm not about to sit around and wait another three years," he said. "They've done nothing but continually miss their own deadlines and then set new deadlines. This review should have been concluded within a matter of months."

U.S. District Judge Michael Hogan of Portland ruled in 2001 that the fisheries service could not give Endangered Species Act protection just to wild fish if it previously lumped hatchery fish in the same population.

The ruling effectively dissolved the threatened species listing for Oregon coastal salmon and prompted similar lawsuits challenging salmon listings elsewhere in Oregon, California and Washington.

Last week, the 9th Circuit dismissed an environmental group's appeal of that ruling, saying it did not have jurisdiction and that the group's concerns might well be addressed by the fisheries service review.

Kristen Boyles, a Seattle-based lawyer with the group Earthjustice, said the Pacific Legal Foundation should have waited until the review was complete before pursuing the matter. She said there was a time when 10 million to 16 million salmon and steelhead returned to Columbia Basin rivers every year; now, the number is below 1 million.

"The listing of fish under the Endangered Species Act isn't just a numbers game. It's 'How are those fish doing?' " she said. "We need to know the status of the species: How are they coming back? Are they in decline? We need that scientific background right now."

Groups represented by the Pacific Legal Foundation in the lawsuit include the Washington State Grange, the Oregon State Grange, the Washington Farm Bureau, the Building Industry Association of Washington, the Alsea Valley Alliance of Oregon, and Washington state's Okanogan and Kittitas counties.

Rob Blomquist

Formerly Tight Loops

The Pacific Legal Foundataion ( is a bunch of Right Wing trouble makers that stir up more silt than do anything meaningful.

They have been around for years, and fan the flames of Spotted Owl issues, County Sucession issues, and Property Rights. They are just a pin striped bunch of troublemakers.

When ever I see something about them in print, I typically laugh, as all they do is cause for the government to waste time and money defending themselves rather than being productive. But maybe that's their goal.

Georgie probably donates to them. I hope ya'll don't.


Mike Etgen

Not Quite A Luddite, But Can See One From Here
Fisheries service (NMFS) sued over steelhead listin...

New River Mike

I saw and read this article today, too. I also recognized Mr. Brooks' name from a "Guest Editorial" he provided to our local paper (the Port Orchard Independent) last fall.

If his words represent his logic (including those from the above mentioned article) and if his assumed logic represents the views of the Pacific Legal Foundation, then they're as guilty of "cherry-picking," distortion, blame-fixing, and phony science as anyone out there.

I'm continually frustrated by people at all levels (politicians, media, advocacy groups, etc.) who resort to blaming, diviseness, etc., to put forth an agenda. No wonder many people don't see the need to work collaboratively when the spin-meisters paint every issue as a "we're right, they're wrong" conflict.

There's a great "Far Side" cartoon I wish I hadn't lost during our recent move. It depicts God in the kitchen, whipping up a batch of the human race, the shelves lined with jars labelled "White People", "Brown People", etc. At the moment he's sprinkling in a small measure from a jar labelled, "Jerks."

"Just to make it interesting" is the caption.

I guess I need to keep that in mind; that line explains it all. God must have a great sense of humor!


"Just to make it interesting"


youngish old guy
Fisheries service (NMFS) sued over steelhead listin...

Wow, thanks for posting the article. What is wrong with these people? I guess I don't know enough to understand their agenda.
Fisheries service (NMFS) sued over steelhead listin...

What really needs to happen is to take rescind all the government subsidies for big farmers including one of the worst boondoggles of all, paying them not to grow crops.
If all that ground wasn't made so incredibly valuable through the handouts of our Congress some of those farmers might want to sell some of their land back to the public.
Then we could begin restoring it back into wetlands and in maybe 50 or 100 years from now we could bring back some of our salmon.
I don't like the idea of my taxes subsidising fat-cat farmers who would just love to see all salmon go extinct so they could do anything they darned well please with the water. Wouldn't it be interestin if we could target some of our Federal income tax where we want it to go when we file?

Good Fishing,
Les Johnson
Fisheries service (NMFS) sued over steelhead listin...

not a bad Idea I don't see any distinction from one farmer to the next! let's start cutting there funds and see which ones start squealing! seriously I did see something not to long ago about how some farmers in Oregon were working with the environmentalist to come up with ideas as to how to allow drainage as long as these farmers were growing organic crops. anybody know anything bout that?

Rob Blomquist

Formerly Tight Loops
Fisheries service (NMFS) sued over steelhead listin...

Based on need, and our ability to build habitat, it won't take 50-100 years except in the worst places, it will take 5-20 for most of the recovery to be had.

And the fish won't follow far behind, I have seen them start to use barely restored habitat.

Fisheries service (NMFS) sued over steelhead listin...

Let's get simple:

Joe buys a piece of utter crap land along the Snake or Columbia for $10,000.
Joe says he needs water to grow crops and he won't vote Republican or contribute his annual $100 again until he gets some.
Joe gets some.
Joe's crop value is never more than $5,000.
Joe's damage to the environment and water loss is never less than $50,000.
Joe says the government (remember that's us, folks) is always screwing him.

Joe has only about a dozen or so "farmers" that are like him. Someone told me the number is more like four. And because of them, the Snake dams can't come out.

My, my, what a democracy we live in...

Bob, the I ain't no Terrorist Farmerx(


youngish old guy
Fisheries service (NMFS) sued over steelhead listin...

There is a HUGE spectrum of attitudes among farmers. I work in organic agriculture and I assure you our day could come IF (big if) you as a consumer are willing to pay the real price for the food you eat. Industrial moncultures are not sustainable and have given us fat Americans the idea that food is cheap. Organic only seems expensive. Actually its the real cost of food. Ask any European if you don't believe me. Cheap food comes at great cost- our environment.

Some growers applauded the recent decision of a Federal Court Judge to require the EPA to review the effects of 54 common pesticides on salmon and steelhead. The same decision requires new 60 ft buffer zones for spraying pesticides designated 'fish risk' near any water thought to contain steelhead/salmon. However, this pissed many off to no end. The ones who were happy were those who already have a 'soft' or organic program. One thing about farmers, and I'm sorry to generalize but I know quite a few, is they tend to resist and often resent change.

Some food for thought.
Fisheries service (NMFS) sued over steelhead listin...

The problem with administrative law in this country is that most everyone fits into one of three categories: nuts on one side an issue, nuts on the other side of the issue, and level headed reasonable people who are too busy earning a living and living their lives to get involved.

So here’s the typical result: Some group that doesn’t care about or know anything about salmon & steelhead, but cares a great deal about stopping land use of all kinds, takes up the banner of the Endangered Species Act and uses salmon & steelhead to further their agenda. Some other group that doesn’t care about or know anything about salmon & steelhead, but cares a great deal about using the land they own, takes up desperate and delusive arguments to preserve it. Finally, the issue is decided by some judge who doesn’t care about or know anything about salmon & steelhead, but cares a great deal about expediting the legal process to keep her docket clear. Meanwhile, the people who really do care about our salmon & steelhead and possess some expertise about how to actually preserve them are at home playing with their kids, or at work earning a paycheck, or on the river fishing for salmon & steelhead. Hopefully, a few of these fine folks are called in to testify from time to time. But they are certainly not the decision makers.

Tight Loops – you may find the farmers’ steelhead argument boring & laughable, but the 9th Circuit didn’t in 2001 when it accepted a nearly identical argument as it applies to Pacific salmon. This case is the offspring of the Alsea decision and should be taken seriously. By “seriously,” I mean that the non-government, non-bureaucrat, non-special interest type people who actually care about wild steelhead should sit up and take notice.

Mike Etgen

Not Quite A Luddite, But Can See One From Here
Fisheries service (NMFS) sued over steelhead listin...

New River Mike

Bright Rivers...

Your reply to this perfectly illustrated my point and I appreciate it. You're right - it's so much easier to render an issue into a good guys vs. bad guys story. For us to embrace your analysis, all we have to do is to accept that this or any another conflict can be explained away as those "nuts" (perhaps in this case you mean environmental extremists)and those other "nuts" (property rights activists?) abetted in this case by a barely interested judge (I notice you erred for political correctness by referring to "her." Or was that sly misogyny?)

You did bring one old chestnut out that only one who grew up in the Nixon years could appreciate...

"...level headed reasonable people who are too busy earning a living and living their lives to get involved."

Do I hear echoes of Spiro Agnew and his many wistful tributes to "the Silent Majority?" Remember the "nattering nabobs of negativism?"

So, let me summarize...there's the left-wing nuts who don't like anything that looks like freedom, and the right-wingers who go nuts trying to defend the country from the left-wing nuts, and the oblivious judiciary and THEN the good ol' Americans who're just too busy doing the real work to get involved.

You left out one group...those in the legal profession that profit by encouraging and prolonging just this kind of adversial scenario.

"Just to make it interesting"
Fisheries service (NMFS) sued over steelhead listin...

Mr. Boblawless,

Awesome post! You hit the nail right on the head. It is absolutely amazing what these farmers think they can get away with. They think they're the only people in this country who work and because of that they can do whatever they want. Their lives aren't the only one's tied to this region's water. We've got a former multi-billion dollar commercial fishing and recreational fishing industry that's going down the toilet because of backwards water and energy policies that are written and protected by Idaho, E. WA and E. Oregon politicians and the farmers that have got them by the balls. Somebody ought to show these folks a globe and explain to them that the world is a lot bigger than the Colubmia River Basin Reclamation Project. I guess Mark Twain said it best, "Whiskey is for drinkin, water is for fightin."

Mike Etgen

Not Quite A Luddite, But Can See One From Here
Fisheries service (NMFS) sued over steelhead listin...

New River Mike

Very thoughtful post. One of my opinions is that the farmers who are making the most noise today are the corporate farmers who've obsoleted most of the true family farmers, who were and are in most cases as thoughtful stewards of the land as they can afford to be.
It's sad to me, and unfortunate, that those "real"' farmers are so often confused with and lumped together with factory agriculture.

Some of us remember the 70's and 80's when many family farmers were convinced to make huge investments (read "debt") in capital against the value of their land. Then the economy tanked, land prices plunged, and the corporate land pirates swooped in. "Family farms" are going the way of the wild steelhead - they're on life support in most of the country.

You're right - we have no clue what food really costs. We're paying for cellophane, cardboard, marketing, and transportation.

And as is so often the issue, there's always a legal "advocacy" group hanging around to finger the other side as the bad guys. Just wait until the corporate agricultural industry corrals the water supply and locks up every step in the "food chain" from seed and labor all the way through processing, packaging, and delivery. Then we'll find out what food REALLY costs.

Maybe the organic agriculturists can keep that from happening.

Fisheries service (NMFS) sued over steelhead listin...

Well, thanks for the nice words. Maybe we could go buy them out with some pocket change from fishing license fees.
Give Joe back his $10,000 and send him elsewhere (jail?).
Pull the dams and let the Snake run wild again.
This would cause the following improvements:
More revenue from fishing, hunting, yes hunting, much hunting habitat was flooded by those dams, tourism of all types, river running, hiking, photo taking, camping etc.
And as for the loss of a few buckets of apples, well, shit happens.
Bob, the I might get a parade thrown in my honor by the people of Idaho and who knows what else.


youngish old guy
Fisheries service (NMFS) sued over steelhead listin...

Earlier I made the claim that supporting small farms and buying organic food would do wonders for the state of American ag. It would for sure, but I've also reconsidered, since Govt. subsidies to industrial agriculture will still exist. Canada has a pretty cool system bordering on socialism where even family farms can get subsidies. If you go through Osooyos (sp?) you can see the result. Family farms and ag tourism everywhere. Nicer to look at, cleaner for the environment etc. I'm not saying subsidies are the way, but if American small scale farmers were equally eligible for subsidies, and there were rewards for conservation efforts, we could really have a game. Force some competition, and provide small farm incentives. At least give them a tax break! Some of you seem to really have it in for the farmers, and I would ask of you to consider the alternative land use before condeming them. Here on the Wenatchee, or on the Methow it would be summer homes for wealthy Westsiders rather than orchards along the river. YUCK. What comes next? Bye bye access. Many of the bigger farms on the snake etc. would be barren wastelands if the farms were suddenly pulled. The soil's already gone, so is the native vegetation. Its called desertification. In Montana, smart conservationists argue to help ranchers rather than push them out. It is better to help their operations become more environmentally friendly (which costs $$), and to educate, than to get rid of them. Both economically and environmentally speaking. By the way, the newish government subsidies for large scale carbon sequestration are removing millions of tons of CO2 from the atmosphere each year. These farmers help counteract all the toxic gas you generate driving to your fishing spots.