Gerrymandering Salmon

April 30, 2004 By: Marshall Cutchin

When it comes to species protection these days, it’s much better to be an asphalt manufacturer than a fish.
In a thinly veiled effort to aid timber, real estate, and power interests, Washington has decided that hatchery-raised salmon shall be included in the counts for determining whether 15 species of salmon should be removed from protection as endangered or threatened. Thanks to Phil Monahan, Editor of American Angler magazine, who sent me the press release he received yesterday from the House Committee on Resources outllining the new “rationale.’ It announces the concretization (pun intended) of administration direction we outlined in previous stories on the subject over the past year.
At the same time, the Bush administration issued new guidance on critical habitat, instructing field offices not to designate critical habitat if other conservation steps are already in place.
From the administration’s perspective, this is all very good stewardship. According to Bob Lohn, regional administrator of NOAA-Fisheries, the federal agency that oversees salmon, “Properly run, hatcheries can become a kind of extension of natural habitat.” If I read this logic correctly, as long as we have facilities to properly manufacture new “genetically similar” panthers, gray whales, manatees, and peregrine falcons, whether they have a place to live is less relevant. And a concrete slough is as good a place to grow up as a wild river.