The Council of Elders speaks; will Obama Administration listen?
In a remarkable document, Recommendations to the Obama Administration for an Improved Columbia River Salmon Recovery Program (January 2009), the Council of Elders and Resource Renewal Institute -- largely consisting of retired wildlife managers and salmon experts -- concluded as follows: "The status of the Columbia River salmon is dire. They are in such peril that many species are in worse condition than before listing under the Endangered Species Act. The Council of Elders submits this report to apply its collective natural resources expertise and policymaking experience, both in and out of government, to ensure the survival of the salmon. The politically driven administration of the Endangered Species Act has thwarted appropriate resource management. This problem, combined with the threat of climate change and expanding human populations, overwhelmingly demonstrates the need for an immediate change in salmon recovery efforts. Only intervention by the highest levels of the Obama administration can cut through the varying interests to save the fish from looming extinction. Recovery is achievable through the improved and proper application of the Endangered Species Act. The guiding principles of this effort should be accountability, use of the best available science, and efficiency. To this end we offer the following recommendations and urge the administration to make salmon recovery an immediate and ongoing priority." The report offered eight specific recommendations. See also, The Oregonian.
The eight recommendations, as set forth in the Executive Summary, were:
I. Establish an extension of the White House to lead and coordinate all the salmon recovery actions of the federal agencies. Immediately review the status of the current lawsuit and seek a stay if necessary.
II. Consolidate Endangered Species Act responsibilities for all salmon species within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
III. Move implementation of the recovery and mitigation programs from the Bonneville Power Administration to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, with the requirement that Bonneville continue to fund the program.
IV. Immediately initiate audits and oversight of the Northwest Power and Conservation Council (NPCC) and Bonneville Power Administration to ensure compliance with the Northwest Power and Conservation Act and court decisions.
V. Direct federal agencies to include the impacts of climate change and population growth in the Biological Opinion and the Columbia River recovery plans.
VI. Issue an Executive Order directing all agencies to foster and protect independent science and scientists contributing to the implementation of federal programs.
VII. Support a congressional request for the National Academy of Sciences to complete a credible, exhaustive study of the economic benefits and costs of removing the four Lower Snake River dams with a full discussion of economic actions to assure regional stakeholders.
VIII. Task the White House Council on Environmental Quality to develop and implement a federal water management-salmon recovery plan for the Columbia Basin.