Suit filed to remove Klamath salmon from endangered list

Posted: Tuesday, February 05, 2002

PORTLAND, Ore. - Fresh from a legal victory to remove Oregon coastal coho salmon from the endangered species list, a public interest law firm filed a lawsuit today to remove the same protection for Klamath Basin coho salmon.

The Pacific Legal Foundation filed the Endangered Species Act lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Eugene and asked that Judge Michael J. Hogan, who ruled in favor of the foundation in the coastal coho case, review the suit.

Coho salmon and sucker fish were at the center of last year's water dispute that pitted Klamath Basin farmers against environmentalists and the Klamath Indian tribe.

Federal officials cut water to irrigation canals serving about 1,000 farmers last summer to preserve high water levels in Upper Klamath Lake for the endangered sucker fish and to allow a brisk spillover rate into Klamath River for the threatened coho of southeastern Oregon and northern California.

"It's the coho listing that was a major factor in shutting off water for farmers last year," said attorney Russell Brooks. "By this lawsuit, we're simply seeking to end the nonsense and restore common sense" to water management in the basin, he said.

The Pacific Legal Foundation won a significant legal victory in September when Judge Hogan ruled that the National Marine Fisheries Service erred when it included both wild and hatchery coastal coho salmon in the group known as an evolutionarily significant unit, and then granted threatened species protection only to wild fish.

In December, environmentalists won a stay from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, which restored the threatened-species status pending appeals. An appellate ruling is expected within the next two years.

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