Activists seek more protection for Coho salmon

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Coho salmon, courtesy fishwatch.gov.

Lawsuit filed to force completion of recovery plan

Staff Report

FRISCO — Conservation advocates are going to court to try and boost protection for Oregon’s endangered Coho salmon. The species has been listed for seven years, but the National Marine Fisheries Service has yet to come up with a recovery plan.

The lawsuit filed last week by the  Center for Biological Diversity and Oregon Wild seeks to move that process forward. A recovery plan is needed to address logging and other land uses seen as key threats to Coho salmon.

“Oregon coast coho need a recovery roadmap if they are to have any chance at surviving,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “A recovery plan is needed to address Oregon’s logging rules, which are badly out of date and allow practices that do real harm to coho salmon and the precious rivers and streams they depend on.”

“Oregon’s rules for logging and forest management have fallen far behind both California and Washington,” said Steve Pedery, conservation director for Oregon Wild. “Continued management of critical habitat under Oregon’s weak forestry laws and the threat of weaker federal forest management paves the way to disaster for Oregon’s coho. It is long past time the Fisheries Service stepped in and provided some guidance, as the law requires,” Pedery said.

Federal biologists have found that regulations governing management of state and private forestlands in the range of Oregon Coast coho, including the Oregon Forest Practices Act, do not adequately protect streams, and that logging operations are “likely to reduce stream shade, slow the recruitment of large woody debris, and add fine sediments.”

Recovery plans are the main tool for identifying actions necessary to save endangered species from extinction and eventually remove their protection under the Endangered Species Act. Research by the Center has found that species with dedicated recovery plans for two or more years are far more likely to be improving than those without.

“Oregon coast coho salmon are part of the very fabric that makes Oregon so special,” said Chris Winter, co-executive director of Crag Law Center. “Bureaucratic delay should not stand in the way of meaningful habitat protections that salmon need so desperately to again thrive on the Oregon coast.”

Oregon’s weak state logging rules are not the only threat to this iconic species. The U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management are under intense pressure to weaken safeguards for coho in rivers like the Umpqua, Alsea and Wilson to promote more logging to fund county governments. A recovery plan could also provide importance guidance to other federal agencies in how to avoid harm to Oregon coast coho.

Finally, the National Marine Fisheries Service is predicting a poor year for coho because of warm ocean conditions off the West Coast. If such conditions become more persistent with global warming, Oregon Coast coho will need the best possible habitat in order to survive.

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