Salmon Habitat Protections Slashed by 80%

The Endangered Species Act directs two federal agencies to save endangered species in part by protecting the places the species needs to recover. On August 12, 2005, the federal government reinterpreted the Endangered Species Act and eliminated 80% of previously protected “critical” habitat for endangered salmon and steelhead.

The new Critical Habitat policy, issued by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), proposed to remove all habitat it considers already protected by other agencies such as the Forest Service under its Northwest Forest Plan.

NMFS also abandoned habitat that lies above presently unpassable dams, even where legal agreements exist to place fish above those dams. Even worse, often the very reason that fish are passing these dams is because NMFS demanded it, citing the need for new habitat and potential new populations. Yet once the fish get above the dams, NMFS will have done nothing to make sure that the habitat the fish reach will help them survive.

According to Trout Unlimited' s August 12, 2005 press release, this announcement is “the latest in a series of anti-salmon recovery policies released by the Bush administration that continue to confound the science community, conservation groups, and even federal courts.”