March 08, 2005

Crapo, Panel Agree Unity, Commitment Key To Salmon And Steelhead Recovery

Senator holds D.C. hearing with state, tribal, agency leaders

Washington, DC - Increased commitment to salmon and steelhead programs and better coordination on fish actions between the federal agencies, states, and tribes are critical if Northwest salmon and steelhead are to be removed from the Endangered Species list. That theme was a common thread at a U.S. Senate subcommittee hearing chaired by Idaho Senator Mike Crapo today in Washington. Crapo called the hearing of the Fisheries, Wildlife, and Water Subcommittee of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee to hear progress on anadromous fish recovery programs and to gauge how those programs are working with state and tribal efforts to recover the fish.Crapo opened the hearing by discussing a recent federal judgeâ??s ruling that may require federal officials to rework their biological opinion regarding salmon and steelhead. â??We are now at a point where perhaps we are going to be rewriting that opinion,â?? Crapo told NMFS Regional Administrator Bob Lohn. â??I want to make sure that NMFS does not follow the same path it followed before-to leave the states and tribes out of the process, and fail to conduct itself in a collaborative manner.â?? Lohn responded that â??depending on the time allowed by the court,â?? he would â??be sensitiveâ?? to â??regional review,â?? and â??greater regional collaboration.â?? Nearly every witness cited the need for increased federal funding, especially for state and tribal programs. Idaho Fish and Game Director Steve Huffaker called for better coordination between federal and local efforts. Improving habitat for the fish was also cited as a concern, as was the uncertainty of funding provided for recovery programs through the Bonneville Power Administration. Shoshone-Bannock Tribal Chair Nancy Murillo and Nez Perce Tribal Chairman Anthony Johnson testified treaty obligations might also mandate more federal spending for salmon and steelhead recovery.â??I am going to continue working to make the case to our Congress and our President that even in these difficult budget times, we need to step up to the bar and make certain that we provide the level of support for salmon and steelhead recovery that is necessary,â?? Crapo noted. Lohn added that better sub-basin planning on salmon issues would lead to better cost estimates as to how to solve those problems.# # #