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Legislative and Regulatory Update

• Salmon populations and the ESA
The Bush administration will abide by recent court decisions by including hatchery populations of salmon when determining whether or not the species warrants Endangered Species Act protection.

The policy could relieve power generators, farmers, property owners and placer miners from the burdens of ESA compliance, reported The Oregonian.

“Just as natural habitat provides a place for fish to spawn and to rear, also hatcheries can do that,” said Bob Lohn, regional administrator of NOAA-Fisheries, the federal agency that oversees salmon. “Properly run, hatcheries can become a kind of extension of natural habitat.”

He said the benchmark for recovery under the Endangered Species Act is that a species is not likely to go extinct. But he said the species need not sustain itself without help.

Several bills are being considered that would reform ESA habitat procedures.

The Bush administration praised HR2933, which would defer the designation of critical habitat for threatened and endangered species until a recovery plan was written. Under existing law critical habitat is designated when a species is listed under the ESA.

HR2933 was introduced by Rep. Dennis Cardoza (D-California).

Craig Manson, assistant secretary of Interior for Fish and Wildlife and Parks, told the House Resources Committee, “We believe that the legislation is a step in the right direction, and would like to continue work with the committee on any proposed amendments to the ESA concerning the designation of critical habitat.”

House Resources Committee Chairman Richard Pombo (R-California) stated, “There appears to be a growing, bi-partisan consensus that the critical habitat component of the (ESA) must be improved to embrace the goal of species recovery.”

HR1662, from Rep. Greg Walden (R-Oregon), would require the use of better science for ESA designations.

Pombo stated he will attempt to move both bills to fix a bankrupt situation brought about by environmental lawsuits and critical habitat designations that aren’t successful in recovering species.

The bills are supported by members of both parties. The Walden bill is cosponsored by 63 House members, and the Cardoza bill is evenly supported by Democrats and Republicans.


• Miners need to get involved in Utah
Salt Lake City, Utah (AP)—Hoping to resolve Utah’s decades-old wilderness disputes, Governor Olene Walker said she will try to bring all those involved in the battle together at the county level, to deal with one parcel of land at a time.

“For almost 30 years, wilderness and public land disputes have really plagued the state,” she said. “We’re anticipating an end, or at least a process so we can finally solve it.”

Walker warned, however, that the process could take years.

Conservation groups and rural Utah leaders have been deadlocked for years over how much of Utah Congress should designate as wilderness, free of oil and gas development, motorized traffic, mining and timber cutting.

Walker said the negotiating committees would include environmentalists, elected officials and business leaders, who would make decisions at local levels on specific tracts of land, instead of trying to solve the wilderness debate in one fell swoop.

The plan will first be tested in southern Utah’s Washington County beginning in June. Alan Gardner, a Washington County commissioner, said officials would use the meetings as an “overall county management plan, even beyond wilderness.”

Miners concerned for their future must get involved and stay involved.

Scott Groene, executive director of Southern Utah Wilderness Association, said the group was happy to sit down and talk and would approach the meetings with an open mind. However, he said the group has no plan to back down from its push for 9.1 million acres of wilderness.

The goal is for each committee to iron out a local solution and then present it to Congress for a land designation.

Representatives of specific business interests, like outdoor recreation, mining and agriculture, will participate in areas of the state where they have a stake.
© ICMJ's Prospecting and Mining Journal, CMJ Inc.
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