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Salmon war looms - Fisheries biologists, loggers and farmers prepare for battle

点击量:   时间:2017-09-11 03:02:01

By Bob Holmes Santa Cruz PACIFIC salmon from central California to the Canadian border need legal protection to save them from extinction, the US government’s fisheries agency suggests. This could lead to unprecedented restrictions on logging, agriculture, hydroelectric projects and even urban development, experts say. If federal officials follow through on the suggestion, a major eco-confrontation seems inevitable. “There has been no listing with this scope in the 20-year history of the Endangered Species Act,” says William Stelle of the US National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) in Seattle. The NMFS wants to add 13 populations of salmon and steelhead trout to the federal government’s list of endangered and threatened species. Most significant among these are the chinook salmon in Puget Sound, on which Seattle stands, and the two separate chinook populations that spawn in the rivers of California’s agricultural Central Valley—one in the spring, the other in the autumn. The Puget Sound and spring-run Central Valley populations have plummeted. All three chinook populations are at risk through interbreeding with escaped hatchery-bred fish. The most serious problems for the salmon are loss of spawning habitat caused by logging and agriculture—activities that clog streams with silt and pollute them with chemicals. Dams barring rivers also limit migration and alter water temperatures. “If we’re going to restore our salmon runs, we must restore the health of our stream and river systems,” says Stelle. That could prove costly. To protect salmon runs in the Central Valley, water managers might have to leave more water to flow down the rivers instead of being pumped off to thirsty cities or farmland. “This could have some real economic impacts in the state,” says William Hogarth of the NMFS in Long Beach, California. In Puget Sound, there might have to be restrictions on logging and urban expansion, says Robert Wissmar, an ecologist at the University of Washington in Seattle. There will now be a series of public hearings throughout the region on the NMFS proposal. The agency will then make a final decision within a year from now on which populations, if any, will be listed and what action is needed to restore them. Deciding how far such measures should go is likely to prove the main battleground, according to Carl Safina of the National Audubon Society in New York. “Listing does not automatically carry with it protection of habitat,” he says. The NMFS’s record on habitat protection is mixed. An earlier listing of sockeye salmon in the Pacific northwest’s Snake River resulted in few changes in water management, says Safina. But in California, the listing of winter-run chinook salmon in the Sacramento River forced water managers to stop pumping for irrigation in spawning months. Farmers and loggers worry that the proposed listing will provoke costly legal battles. “The enormity of the proposal is mind-boggling,” says Mike Miller of Associated Oregon Loggers,