EPIC Joins Lawsuit Over California’s Salmon Rules

EPIC Joins Lawsuit Over California’s Salmon Rules

February 25, 2008

For more information, please contact:
Scott Greacen, EPIC, 707-822-7711
Severn Williams, California Trout, 510-336-9566, C 415-336-9566
Paul Mason, Sierra Club California, 916-557-1100 x120, 916-214-1382

San Francisco, CA – A coalition of environmental and fishery groups filed suit today in San Francisco Superior Court against the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG), seeking to overturn new regulations that streamline the killing of endangered coho salmon. The groups charge the regulations, adopted by DFG in December 2007, violate the California Endangered Species Act (CESA). The coalition includes the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC), Sierra Club and California Trout.

“California Trout fought long and hard to have coho salmon listed as endangered by the State of California,” said Brian Stranko, California Trout Chief Executive Officer. “DFG has a legal obligation to protect native salmon. We are disappointed that this administration has put the interests of the logging industry above the long-term survival of coho salmon, a species clearly at risk.”

At the heart of the lawsuit is DFG’s move, under the new regulations, to delegate its duty to protect fish to the agency that approves logging plans, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CDF or CALFIRE). The DFG regulations are tied to a package of new rules the State Board of Forestry (BOF) adopted last year that allow the timber industry to continue “business as usual” logging practices that harm salmon habitat.

“Fish and Game is trying to pawn off its responsibility to protect our threatened salmon on CDF,” said EPIC’s Scott Greacen, “but CDF has just put in place road management rules that ensure coho will continue to be routinely harmed by logging practices.”

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 an endangered species.

The plaintiffs argue that DFG approved incidental take permit guidelines for timber regulations that violate CESA, the California Fish and Game Code, the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), and Administrative Procedures Act. “Incidental take” refers to the accidental killing of one or more coho salmon in the course of logging activity.

“These rules focus more on making it easier to kill endangered salmon, rather recovering their habitat,” said Paul Mason, deputy director of Sierra Club California. “We need to restore salmon habitat, not streamline the killing of the few remaining wild coho salmon.”

The lawsuit also alleges that DFG and the Board acted improperly when adopting the incidental take regulations because both agencies failed to address concerns raised repeatedly by the plaintiffs during the rule-making process. Another lawsuit against the BOF was brought by EPIC and the Sierra Club late last year regarding the same set of regulations.

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 a community-based advocacy group headquartered on the North Coast of California. For thirty years, EPIC has pioneered effective litigation strategies to protect forests, rivers, and the species that need them.