Emergency Petition Filed to Protect Imperiled Salmon

Emergency Petition Filed to Protect Imperiled Salmon

July 16, 2008

For more information, please contact: Scott Greacen, EPIC, 707-822-7711

Sacramento, CA — A coalition of environmental and fishery groups filed an emergency petition today with the California Board of Forestry (BOF), urging the board to adopt regulations to protect coho salmon from logging practices that damage habitat. The coalition has requested that the board update its timber harvesting rules in light of severely reduced salmon populations that have precipitated a complete moratorium on all commercial and recreational salmon fishing throughout the state for 2008.

The board has 30 days to hold a hearing in response to the emergency request. The coalition includes California Trout, the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC), and the Sierra Club.

On April 10th, Governor Schwarzenegger issued an emergency fishing disaster proclamation. The proclamation noted that the salmon fishing moratorium is expected to result in severe economic losses throughout the state, including an estimated $255 million economic impact and loss of an estimated 2,263 jobs. As part of his emergency proclamation, the Governor directed state agencies and departments to take various actions to respond to this crisis, including a directive that they “address the long-term restoration and management of salmon in California.”

If approved by the Board of Forestry, the coalition’s petition would require the timber industry to begin immediately complying with new environmental standards to lessen the impact of their logging operations within all watersheds containing coho salmon, a species protected under the state and federal Endangered Species Act (ESA).

According to the petition filed today, a February 2008 National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) report states that, across the range of coho salmon on the coast of California, there has been a 73 percent decline in returning adults in 2007-08 compared to the same cohort in 2004-05. An April 2008 report released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration finds that the coho is currently in danger of extinction.

“Salmon populations are plummeting all along the West Coast. Logging practices that degrade salmon habitat are clearly a major factor for these declines,” said Brian Stranko, California Trout Chief Executive Officer. “The situation is urgent and preserving the regulatory status quo for the commercial logging industry is misplaced and totally unacceptable.”

“It’s going to take something more than business as usual to restore our salmon,” said Scott Greacen, Executive Director of EPIC.

The federal National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) asked BOF to improve its salmon habitat protections in a February 2008 letter and in testimony before the board in June 2008. NMFS findings indicate that coho salmon are in grave danger of drastic population declines and possible extinction in parts of California if BOF does not act quickly to protect the fish.

In late 2007, BOF adopted new road management rules that allow the timber industry to continue logging practices that harm salmon habitat and routinely contribute to fish population declines in sensitive watersheds. Coho salmon have been state-listed as threatened or endangered from the Oregon border south through the San Francisco Bay since 2004, and have been listed as endangered from San Francisco to Monterey Bay since 1995. The federal government also lists coho salmon as endangered on the Central Coast and threatened along the North Coast.

“Salmon are going extinct in California, and logging practices are a big part of the problem. We’ve known how logging hurts salmon for many years, but the Board of Forestry has failed to address these issues. Salmon can’t wait any longer, so we’re petitioning for better protections,” said Paul Mason, Deputy Director of Sierra Club California.

Earlier this year, coalition members sued the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) for approving incidental take permit guidelines for timber regulations that violate the California Endangered Species Act (CESA), the Fish and Game Code, and the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). “Incidental take” refers to the accidental killing of one or more coho salmon in the course of logging activity.

About California Trout: Founded in 1971, California Trout was the first statewide conservation group to focus on securing protections for California’s unparalleled wild and native trout diversity. California Trout employs conservation science, education, and advocacy to craft effective public policy to protect California’s water resources and fisheries.

About the Sierra Club: The Sierra Club is the country’s oldest and largest grassroots environmental group, with 1.3 million members and supporters. Explore, enjoy, and protect the planet.

About EPIC: The Environmental Protection Information Center is based in Humboldt County, California, and has worked for more than 30 years to protect northwest California’s forests, fish, and watersheds through education, advocacy, and litigation.