News from the Front #94, by James Buchal [here]

For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, and cometh not to the light, lest his works should be reproved.  John 3:20.

Sportfishing interests, more precisely the Salmon Spawning & Recovery Alliance, Wild Fish Conservancy, the Native Fish Society, and Clark-Skamania Flyfishers, recently lost a big one when Judge Lasnik in Seattle rejected their challenge to National Marine Fisheries Service decisions sanctioning continuing overfishing on threatened Puget Sound chinook salmon.  The Alliance sued under two federal statutes that require NMFS to use the best available science in decision making.  It has been years since the Service did that, and it is increasingly clear that the Federal courts are the most powerful force making sure that NMFS can deem any particular science it wants as the best science—at least when it comes to harvest science.

Back in 2001, NMFS invited a blue-ribbon panel of outside academics to review its harvest policies.  Called the Recovery Science Review Panel, they issued a blistering report [here](.pdf, 2.3 Mb) concluding that “NMFS should develop a rational [harvest] policy that does not demean scientific common sense” (p. 13).  Commercial harvest interests (more precisely, their state and tribal mouthpieces), demanded that NMFS repudiate the Panel report.  NMFS bureaucrats scurried about like bugs after their rock was overturned, ultimately commissioning a thirty-eight page review of the Panel’s wide-ranging critiques from the elite science wing of NMFS at its Northwest Fishery Science Center facility [here](.pdf, 1.5 Mb (redacted version)).

NMFS bureaucrat Frank Lockhart testified that the Science Center’s review “affected NMFS’ adoption of recovery plans and biological opinions pertaining to the listed salmonids” throughout the Northwest.  Presumably these included the very decisions Judge Lasnik approved.  But NMFS made sure Judge Lasnik never saw the thirty-eight page Science Center report, or the Panel’s “common sense” report that triggered Science Center’s involvement.

Federal judges taught NMFS long ago that it need fear no discovery in litigation with mere citizens.  When citizens complain about government decisions, federal judges declare that citizens don’t get to put on evidence.  Only the federal agencies do.  They go into their files, and bring out a set of documents and present them to the Court as the “administrative record” against which the decisions must be judged.  Congress required the Courts to consider the “whole record” in the Administrative Procedure Act, including all documents considered by the agency, but most of the time, no one can ever tell if the agencies have presented the “whole record” or not.
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June 16, 2023 | Leave a Comment | Topic:  Salmon and other fish

News from the Front #93 [here]

by James Buchal, April 22, 2023

Now more than ever, as we sink in a cesspool of public and private debt brought on by a corrupted federal government, and we all tighten our belts, we can ill afford wasteful public spending.  BPA’s recent announcements of “Memoranda of Agreement” (MOAs) with Pacific Northwest States and Tribes promise just that, with substantial hikes in electricity rates to fund another billion in salmon spending, and no real public benefits at all.   And the MOAs only set a floor for wasteful fish and wildlife spending, not a ceiling.

The general design of the MOAs is a wholesale subversion of the decisionmaking processes crafted by elected officials in favor of agency decisionmaking by contract with special interests.  The Northwest Power and Conservation Council has been charged by Congress to develop the Region’s fish and wildlife plan, and BPA is by law supposed to follow that plan, funding programs the Council and its independent scientists identify as appropriate.   The Tribal MOA gives lip service to the Council’s program, but warns that it contains “specific and binding funding commitments” irrespective of Council decisions.  Thus big new programs will be established to promote salmon parasites (lamprey), irrespective of the lack of public or Council support for such programs.

The National Marine Fisheries Service is supposed to review actions concerning endangered and threatened fish, but through the MOAs, many of the choices NMFS would dictate are now to be specified by agreement with the special interest groups.  The dam operators will now be bound by contract to take the fish out of transport barges, irrespective of scientific evidence proving higher survival.  They will be bound to spill water at dams, irrespective of scientific evidence proving massive outbreaks of gas bubble disease.  The Tribal MOA even attempts to bind NMFS to approve the wholesale gillnetting of endangered salmon, declaring that “tribal treaty fishing rights were present effects of past federal actions that must be included in the environmental baseline” and that the MOA is based on the “assumption that NOAA Fisheries will give ESA coverage” to future harvests.  Ordinarily, scientifically-based natural resource management decisions might be expected to evolve based on better science, but the MOAs even attempt to prevent such scientific evolution.

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April 22, 2023 | Leave a Comment | Topic:  Salmon and other fish

by Dave Skinner, the Flathead Beacon, [here]

It must be spring. After all, environmentalists have “sprung” at least six or seven new lawsuits on the Northwest court system the past couple weeks – and Earthjustice is about ready to file against delisting Northern Rockies wolves.

But it’s a just-dismissed lawsuit that has my attention, especially since I just got “carded” for this year’s fire season. It was filed by the Eugene, Oregon-based, so-called Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics (FSEEE) in District Judge Donald Molloy’s Missoula courtroom, way back in October 2003. I’ll spare you the stultifying federal acronym soup.

On the surface, FSEEE basically sued the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) in order to force a full-blown paperwork shuffle on the environmental effects of air-dropped fire retardants.

Judge Molloy took two years to rule for the paperwork shuffle, in October 2005, at which point FSEEE crowed “Group Wins Lawsuit to Protect Firefighters and the Environment From Toxic Aerial Fire Retardant.”

But the use of chemical retardants hasn’t been stopped. FSEEE never asked for that to begin with. Molloy’s 35-page ruling specifically pointed out the case was not about the safety or toxicity of retardants per se, but only a procedural case affirming the need to shuffle paper if and when “substantial questions” of environmental impact “may” exist.

The already overwhelmed Forest Service dragged butt on the shuffle, goading Judge Molloy into threatening Agriculture Undersecretary Mark Rey with jail unless the paperwork hit Molloy’s desk – which it did in late February 2008.

The Forest Service concluded that using retardant poses no “significant environmental impact” to Judge Molloy, who dismissed the case March 12.

Now, after four-plus years, FSEEE spokesman Andy Stahl (the guy who made “spotted owl” a household word) is telling reporters his group intends to file ANOTHER lawsuit over retardant in Molloy’s court. It’s all part of what Missoulian reporter John Cramer terms “another decade-long campaign” to stop “the war on fire.”

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April 3, 2023 | 2 Comments | Topic:  Salmon and other fish

The Chinook salmon in the Willamette River system are considered one of the most threatened “Distinct Population Segments” in the Pacific Northwest. Yet historically, there were very few salmon in the Willamette. The reason: Willamette Falls, 26 miles upstream the confluence with the Columbia, was mostly impassable to upstream-bound fish.

Willamette Falls is 42 feet high and flows over a sheer natural rock formation. It was a natural barrier to fish passage. Only in spring flood, and not every year, could a few Chinook salmon make the leap. From PGE (who runs the power dam there today) [here]:

In 1885 the first fish ladder was excavated out of the solid rock. Though primitive, this ladder did help fish move above the falls. Technology and knowledge of fisheries advanced over time, and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife designed the current fish ladder, which was completed in 1971.

In the early 1900’s seven Willamette Basin salmon hatcheries were established: McKenzie River, Marion Forks/North Fork Santiam River, South Santiam in the South Fork Santiam River, South Santiam in the Calapooia River, South Santiam in the Mollala River, Willamette, and Clackamas hatcheries. Salmon returning to the hatcheries to breed after their oceanic sojourns swam up through the fish ladder at Willamette Falls.

In 1999 the artificial Willamette River salmon population was declared an endangered species [here].

UPPER WILLAMETTE RIVER CHINOOK ESU THREATENED

ESU STATUS AND DESCRIPTION: Listed as threatened on March 24, 1999; threatened status reaffirmed on June 28, 2005. The ESU includes all naturally spawned populations of spring-run Chinook salmon in the Clackamas River and in the Willamette River, and its tributaries, above Willamette Falls, Oregon, as well as seven artificial propagation programs…

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February 7, 2024 | Leave a Comment | Topic:  Salmon and other fish

News from the Front #92  [here]

by James M. Buchal

The Feds have been centralizing all natural resource decisionmaking and putting it under wraps ever since Nixon sent Judge Boldt out here.  So the action in salmon decisionmaking, at least for Columbia River harvest issues, is in the United States District Court for the District of Oregon.  Public observers learned at a December 12, 2023 status conference before Judge Redden that the Federal government and the Northwest States and Tribes had privately advised the Court of a new ten-year secret harvest deal back in September.  The deal will become final when and if NOAA Fisheries issues a biological opinion approving the deal in the next couple of months.

Judge Redden is overseeing the new biological opinion on dam operations, not harvest, but at the December 12th status conference, the attorney representing the State of Washington explained that the two opinions were “intertwined”.  More specifically, he told Judge Redden:  “. . . we need to get that [dam biological opinion] done in order to prop up what needs to be done in United States v. Oregon in the associated harvest [biological opinion]”.

What did he mean by “prop up”?  Most people think Judge Redden’s opinions are about offsetting harm from dam operations, but when NOAA Fisheries models only the effects of dam operations on salmon populations, it can’t find that they threaten to wipe out salmon.  So NOAA Fisheries is going to hide future harvest rate increases in the biological opinion on dam operations, even though it knows this is not how the Endangered Species Act is supposed to work.  The Regional Administrator of NOAA Fisheries even admitted in testimony before the Northwest Power & Conservation Council in November that “if you scrupulously used the rules for writing a biological opinion [on dam operations], you wouldn’t include future biological opinions [on salmon harvest that are yet to be written]”.
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January 23, 2024 | Leave a Comment | Topic:  Salmon and other fish

News from the Front #91 [here]

by James M. Buchal

This year marks the twentieth anniversary of the listing of “endangered” suckerfish, beginning the invasion of the Klamath Basin by “swarms of officers” “sent hither”, in the words of the Founders, “to harass our people and eat out their substance”.  On January 15, 2008, the swarms released a draft “Klamath River Basin Restoration Agreement for the Sustainability of Public and Trust Resources and Affected Communities” [here].  The title is ironic, if not Orwellian, as the true purpose and effect of the Agreement is to destroy the sustainability of a growing agricultural economy, part and parcel of a larger hollowing-out of America that becomes more and more apparent.

Dam Removal and Other Economic Losses

One overarching purpose is the destruction of productive capital in the form of dam removal, though PacifiCorp is not yet on board.  Presumably one reason the draft Agreement was released, rather than being consummated in secret like so many other vital natural resource decisions, was the need to pressure PacifiCorp.  Destroying clean, renewable hydropower in favor of forcing citizens to fund their foreign enemies with energy payments will someday be regarded as a great crime.  For now, the answer is always the same:  Uncle Sam will print up more dollars to paper over the problem, but those days will soon come to an end.

Specifically, there is to be a $41.7 million (143) program “to provide power costs security” at a level of three cents (2007) per kilowatt-hour (141).  But “actual realization of the specific power cost target depends on several factors and variables and is not guaranteed by the Agreement” (141).  To get the benefits, if any, participants must “enroll to support this Agreement and the Hydropower Agreement” (142), adopting the time-honored tactic of using borrowed fiat dollars to buy off political opponents of the Agreement.

Counties losing tax revenue from dam removal or suffering other adverse impacts (147) will be bought off by the “Counties Program” for economic development, though no level of funding is specified yet (148).  Local losses may be even worse as more land is converted into into Tribal trust property; a “Mazama Forest Project” (138), rumored to involve converting 80-90,000 acres, appears to show a proposed funding level of $21 million (175).  A related Klamath Tribe document [here] even suggests that the Tribe expects to “[s]ecure assurances that the Tribes and Tribal members will be given preference on contracting, employment and business opportunities generated on the Tribes’ ancestral homelands by the Settlement Agreement”.

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January 22, 2024 | 1 Comment | Topic:  Salmon and other fish