Coho salmon, whose numbers have dropped 73 percent in California coastal habitat in the past year, may face an uncertain future following the state’s rejection of a habitat-protection plan.
The Sacramento Bee reports that the California Board of Forestry ruled 6-3 against a petition by an activist coalition to protect salmon streams from the effects of logging.
The ruling puts the board in conflict with federal fishing regulators, who said logging limitations would improve salmon habitat, and that the state board’s current regulations actually harm the fish.
The National Marine Fisheries Service has suspended all salmon fishing on the coast for the first time in history, in response to some of the lowest numbers of California salmon ever recorded.
A petition by the Sierra Club, California Trout and other advocacy groups sought to mandate coastal stream protections on private land — a plan that the forestry board rejected, citing lack of evidence that logging was at fault.
The board did suggest new stream protections last year, but only if the state Department of Fish and Game ruled that logging would kill salmon.
The department never issued the ruling, prompting advocates to petition the board to take action independently.
Coho salmon are protected under the Endangered Species Act, and both the fisheries service and the petitioners’ attorney said that extinction of certain coho populations is a possibility.
The board — which is appointed by the governor and “weighted” in the logging industry’s favor — said evidence was lacking that the decline was caused by the health of inland streams, rather than oceanic conditions.
At least one board member also commented on the “huge financial hardship” protective regulations would cause to land owners and the logging industry.
“California officials reject emergency salmon protection petition”
McClatchy Newspapers, August 7, 2008