Month after month of reading articles of the current administration's political manipulation of science, or their willingness to blatantly ignore it, leaves me disappointed by a level of thoughtless arrogance that's disgusting.
This article reveals yet another example that our President and his policies are out of touch with what the people want and what it truly means to be a conservative.
To paraphrase one comic's observation, "The Democrats blow, and the Republicans suck...", what's a voter to do?
New rules shift salmon policy
Critics say scientists were ignored; species protection uncertain.
Sacramento Bee - 5/2/04
By Les Blumenthal, staff writer
WASHINGTON - In tentatively concluding there is little difference between wild and hatchery salmon, the Bush administration rejected the findings of independent scientists and, instead, opted for a fundamental shift in long-established policy that could affect federal protections for up to 25 West Coast runs.
The administration's move, outlined in a one-page confidential memo reviewed by the White House Council on Environmental Policy, represents a major victory for agricultural interests and developers who had fought the listings of salmon and steelhead runs under the Endangered Species Act. It was a major setback for environmentalists, who charge the White House manipulated an earlier court decision for political purposes.
The proposed policy, still in draft form, comes at a time of record or near-record runs on rivers and streams. Most returning fish, in some cases 90 percent or more, are hatchery-raised and not wild. Despite more than $700 million spent annually on the most extensive effort ever to recover an endangered species, improved ocean conditions rather than man-made fixes are generally credited for the healthy runs.
Hatcheries have played a key role in supplementing wild runs since the 1930s, when the federal government embarked on an ambitious program to build massive hydroelectric dams. The dams flooded spawning habitat and interfered with migrating fish.
Until now, only wild salmon and steelhead have been considered when deciding on federal protection.
"Ultimately, this is an attempt to bypass the Endangered Species Act and delist as many stocks as they can," said biologist Ransom Myers of Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Myers was one of six scientists appointed to an independent advisory panel by federal officials to look at whether wild and hatchery-bred salmon are genetically similar. Myers and other members of the panel said officials of the National Marine Fisheries Service were not pleased when the panel concluded there were significant differences.
"Any science that contradicted them was not welcome," Myers said in a telephone interview. The scientists, he said, basically found that "you can't replace wild salmon with hatchery salmon. It's like saying Chihuahuas and wolves are the same."
Other members of the scientific panel were also critical of the administration.
"The current political and legal wrangling is a sideshow to the real issues," Robert Paine, a biologist at the University of Washington, said in an earlier statement. "The science is clear and unambiguous - as they are currently operated, hatcheries and hatchery fish cannot protect wild stocks."
The advisory panel said the tens of millions of hatchery fish released into Western rivers each year are well-fed and larger than wild ones. But Myers said the hatchery fish are also genetically inferior, and staking the survival of all salmon on those bred in captivity would be a mistake.
Administration officials sought to downplay the impact of the new policy.
"People are jumping to conclusions about what this says," said Jim Lecky, intergovernmental program adviser to the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration's fisheries programs.
Of the 26 federally protected salmon and steelhead runs on the West Coast, all but one - Southern California steelhead - will eventually be reviewed in light of the new policy, Lecky said. Fifteen of the runs have been challenged by various groups; of those, NOAA-Fisheries is under court pressure to decide quickly.
"This doesn't necessarily mean they will be delisted or reclassified," Lecky said. "We don't know how many will actually be affected."
The memo outlining the proposed new policy, a copy of which was obtained by the News Tribune, concluded hatchery fish that are genetically "no more than moderately divergent" from wild ones will be considered when deciding whether a run should receive federal protection. The phrase "moderately divergent" was not defined.
But the memo also said federal officials will recognize the "necessity" of conserving wild salmon populations and the ecosystems salmon depend on.
Lecky conceded the policy, if finally adopted, would be controversial. Asked about White House involvement, Lecky said top environmental officials in the White House routinely review such policy changes.
Last edited by Speynut; 05-04-2004 at 03:02 AM.
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