TU drops out of Lower Snake lawsuit; more wilderness coming, hopefully

Trout Unlimited announced it is asking permission from the federal district court in Portland to withdraw as a plaintiff from a lawsuit against the National Marine Fisheries Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation over the agencies’ inadequate plans to recover Columbia and Snake River salmon runs, opting instead to seek resolution through collaborative forum involving all major stakeholders.

Since the mid-1990s, TU and a diverse group of conservation and fishing interests have successfully challenged every plan issued by the federal agencies to offset the enormous harm federal hydroelectric dams inflict on wild salmon and steelhead populations in the Columbia and Snake rivers – most recently this past summer.

“Without question, this litigation has been pivotal in obtaining improvements in dam operations and fish habitat that have helped slow the decline of wild salmon and steelhead,” said Chris Wood, TU’s president and CEO. “But slowing decline isn’t enough. We need to recover these remarkable fish, and one way to do that is to sit down with the people most affected by salmon recovery and work out an agreement that meets their economic needs while recovering these fish of enormous cultural, economic and ecologic value.”

Hells Canyon Dam 1 Hells Canyon Dam photo by Sam Beebe, Ecotrust

Two wilderness proposals are coming closer to fruition in Southwestern Oregon, according to The Oregonian. Check out the link for a great shot of Rep. DeFazio perched on the river bank after a grueling hike in.

Devil’s Staircase near Coos Bay and the Rogue River near Agness made Ken Salazar, Secretary of the Interior’s list for protection. The Rogue is already protected as wilderness, so Salazar is recommending adjacent land additions

This entry was posted in Oregon Conservation News. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to TU drops out of Lower Snake lawsuit; more wilderness coming, hopefully

  1. David Jensen says:

    I am a long time TU member, and an equally long time lawyer professionally familiar with Judge Jim Redden, who is handling this case. Frankly, I do not understand TU trying to opt out of this fight. That being said, I am 100% behind TU’s notion that the best solution would be a negotiated deal with the feds, the tribes, the commercial fishers et al. coming together with a settlement to put before Judge Redden. That is what happened with the Klamath litigation. Settlement negotiations go on concurrently with litigation in all cases. TU opting out simply shifts the balance of power to the status quo.

    Can my view be forwarded on to TU nationally and Oregon Conservation News?

  2. Brennan Sang says:

    I’m the Online Community Manager for TU National. I can forward your comments on to our national staff.

  3. Chris Hunt says:


    I just wanted to thank you for your comments, and I especially wanted to thank the Oregon Fly Fishing blog for posting our press release. I’m the national communications director at TU, and your comment on this page was brought to my attention. Gotta love the blogosphere, right?

    I understand your concerns over our decision to leave the suit and instead pursue a collaborative solution to this decades-old problem. That said, I thought I’d try to address your worries over how TU’s absence in the courtroom might tip the “balance of power” in the wrong direction. First, as you likely know, there are a dozen or so plaintiffs in this case, including some big organizations like the National Wildlife Federation. While TU is stepping out of the court fight, we fully support the intent of the lawsuit and support our conservation partners in their effort to save Snake River salmon and steelhead from the slow decline they face brought on by the dams. Without the court battle, we believe the situation with salmon and steelhead in the region would be even more dire.

    That said, we’ve enjoyed some great success in recent years actually working face-to-face with all interested parties to find common-sense solutions to very real conservation problems. For instance, we worked with all stakeholders in Idaho to draft and implement the Idaho Roadless Rule, which protected 9 million acres of pristine backcountry for the next generation of sportsmen and women who will no doubt continue to enjoy these special lands. Remember, Idaho’s backcountry is the “heartbeat” of the Snake River salmon and steelhead system–that intact habitat is vital for spawning and rearing, and an argument could be made that, without it, the numbers of salmon and steelhead in the Snake River system would be even lower today.

    Also, in Wyoming, we negotiated a long-term plan for the protection of over a million acres of public lands from new oil and gas drilling, and we did that by working with local, state and federal officials and agencies, as well as the industry. It was a decision reached collaboratively, just as the rule negotiated in Idaho.

    We think we can do the same for Pacific salmon in the Snake River system, and that was our motivation for removing ourselves from the litigation–we believe that our lead role in this process can be better put to work with all comers in this issue if we’re not sitting at a table negotiating one day, and then sitting in a courtroom the next seeking intervention.

    This much I can promise you. Nobody will work harder to achieve a solution that, first and foremost, benefits salmon and steelhead and the communities in the region that have lived for decades with the knowledge that past mistakes have nearly eliminated one of our country’s greatest natural resources. We will work tirelessly to create an environment in which we and our fellow stakeholders can get good, common-sense work done toward a solution to this problem.

    I hope you’ll continue to support TU in its conservation efforts, not just on this issue, but on a host of issues vital to the health of our nation’s coldwater fisheries. We appreciate your support and we appreciate your concerns on this issue, and welcome any feedback you might have in the future.

    Thanks again, David.

    Chris Hunt
    Director of Communications
    Trout Unlimited

  4. David Jensen says:

    Brennan and Chris,
    Judge Jim Redden just took himself off this case, and it will be reassigned to another judge in this district. This could effect TU’s calculation as to whether to seek to be dropped as a plaintiff, so you are advised of this fact. Feel free to call next Tuesday at my office if you want more information. 541 342 1141. There are some things I wouldn’t post regarding this issue. Happy Thanksgiving, and Go Ducks!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *