While most of the country is tuned into the War in Iraq, there’s another war going on right in the good old U.S.A.  Rule by rule, regulation by regulation, law by law, the Bush Administration and its allies in Congress are rolling back as many environmental protections as they can. The latest victim is a fish. A salmon to be more precise.  There are no pictures of this fish in a uniform, and no tape of its grieving mates.  However, the fish is certainly a victim, just as we are victims of the “Not-so-Clean Air Act,” and the “Not-so-Clean Water Act.”  

For more about just what’s going on with Larry Craig (R-ID) versus the fish, and a suggestion for action we can take–please read on below the fold.
The Situation  Once upon a time northwestern fisheries and Native American tribes derived income from salmon fishing. Fishing/Guide services made money offering recreational trips to the Pacific NW. All this for a fish. However, competition between the fish and the utility companies has been a losing proposition for the fish in question, the Coho and the Chinook:

From the Natural Resources Defense Council
“Once abundant from Alaska all the way down to Santa Barbara, populations of chinook salmon have been declining steadily. Human modification of natural water flow for dams, hydropower and agriculture has cut into salmon habitat. Nine regional subgroups of chinook salmon are listed as threatened or endangered.

“Coho salmon went extinct in the Snake River in 1985. All five remaining species of Snake River salmon and steelhead are listed under the Endangered Species Act, headed toward the same fate unless we act now. Biologists say that, collectively, the four lower Snake River dams in southeastern Washington are the primary threat to salmon. These dams and reservoirs now lie between the inland streams where salmon are born and the ocean where they spend most of their lives.”
Sierra Club

The Problem The Bush Administration has engaged in foot-dragging and out right fighting the implementation and enforcement of fisheries improvement from day one.

The League of Conservation Voters puts it this way:

“Indeed, his (Bush) administration has fallen short of targets required under a plan inherited from the Clinton administration for improving salmon habitats and water quality. Wild salmon are still well below the levels necessary to ensure their long-term survival, and a judge has ordered the entire rescue plan redone.”  

The Wild Salmon Center offers more details:

“The government was given one more year to prepare a new Salmon Plan that complies with the law and avoids jeopardy to listed salmon and steelhead. Given the government’s past inaction (in the words of the court, “the entire remand time [for the 2000 federal Salmon Plan] was lost and wasted”), the progress of this re-write period will be heavily monitored. If, and only if, “it is apparent that substantial progress is being made and will continue to be made” the court would likely grant a time extension for the remand. This is the third time in 10 years the court has ordered the government to devise a plan that will protect and restore Columbia and Snake River salmon.–source

The Final Salmon Plan is due on October 7, 2006. The first progress report (due January 2, 2006) must contain: 1) preliminary information about the legal framework NOAA intends to use; 2) the nature and scope of the proposed plan; and 3) NOAA’s plan for collaboration with the states and tribes.”

So, how does Mr. Craig (R-ID) fit into the picture? Mr. Craig is not happy about the way the fish are being counted. In a manuever calculated to delight his supporters from the hydroelectric power industry who gave him $145,436 for his campaigns since 2001, he inserted one sentence into a provision for energy spending: “…Craig blocked this funding mechanism (for the Fish Passage Center) by inserting a sentence in an energy and water spending bill that says, <u>”The Bonneville Power Administration may make no new obligations in support of the Fish Passage Center.”</u&gt

Why would Mr. Craig do this? The Washington Post catches and lands him:  Washington Post

“In a surgical strike from Capitol Hill, Sen. Larry E. Craig (R-Idaho) has eliminated a little-known agency that counts endangered fish in the Columbia River.

The Fish Passage Center, with just 12 employees and a budget of $1.3 million, has been killed because it did not count fish in a way that suited Craig.
Salmon math has clearly riled up Craig, who in his last election campaign in 2002 received more money from electric utilities than from any other industry and who has been named “legislator of the year” by the National Hydropower Association.

The Fish Passage Center has documented, in excruciating statistical detail, how the Columbia-Snake hydroelectric system kills salmon. Its analyses of fish survival data also suggest that one way to increase salmon survival is to spill more water over dams, rather than feed it through electrical turbines.

Last summer, a federal judge in Portland, using data and analysis from the Fish Passage Center, infuriated the utilities. He ordered that water be spilled over federal dams in the Snake River to increase salmon survival. Shortly after Judge James A. Redden issued his order, Craig began pushing to cut all funding for the Fish Passage Center.”

Now where have we heard this before: “Kill the Messenger!”  Any agency, no matter how small, that enrages the industrial donors to the Republican Party will find its budget slashed, or in this case eliminated.
What do the CIA and the Fish Passage Agency have in common? They both told the White House and the Republican leadership in Congress things they didn’t want to hear?

If you’d like to make your voice heard there’s a letter to Congressional Representatives Take Action here.

At the very least you’ll make a bear happy?

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