Northwest Digest

Posted: Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Judge: Flawed data used in coho decision

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PORTLAND, Ore. - A federal fisheries agency violated the Endangered Species Act by relying on scientifically flawed data from Oregon in deciding against listing the Oregon Coast coho salmon as a threatened species, a federal magistrate ruled.

Magistrate Janice Stewart wrote that the National Marine Fisheries Service's decision not to list the fish "in the face of Oregon's competing conclusions or uncertainties" was "arbitrary, capricious, contrary to the best available evidence and a violation of the ESA."

She recommended that the agency be ordered to issue a final ruling consistent with the Endangered Species Act within 60 days of her July 13 decision.

If either side objects by July 30, she wrote, the case would go to a federal judge.

Brian Gorman, the NMFS spokesman in Seattle, said the agency was undecided.

"We're still looking at it. It's a pretty long ruling," he said.

Stewart ruled in a lawsuit brought by Trout Unlimited, Pacific Rivers Council and the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations, among other plaintiffs.

"We can recover coho to Oregon and restore local communities and fishing jobs. But we've got to protect and restore the streams they rely on," said Jan Hasselman, a lawyer for Earthjustice, which represented fishermen and conservation groups in the case.

Lightning-caused fires blacken Oregon

RILEY, Ore. - Oregon wildfires have blackened some 300 square miles, mostly in the southeast part of the state, with the largest one accounting for half the burned area and still only 45 percent contained Monday.

The Northwest Interagency Coordination Center said the Egley complex in Harney County had burned about 101,000 acres, or 158 square miles, but that containment has been estimated for Thursday.

Fire spokesman Tim Johnson said suppression costs to date are estimated at about $7.2 million. There are 1,852 personnel plus large amounts of equipment assigned to the fire, he said.

At one point the fire threatened the towns of Burns and Hines. Several structures remain at risk.

Other major fires included the Horse Heaven complex near Prosser which was half contained at more than 48,000 acres and the Juniper Reservoir fire northwest of Juntura, which consumed 20,000 acres by Monday and was only 25 percent contained.

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