Feds to Consider Hatchery Salmon Along with Wild in Protection Plans

When considering what measures to take to protect threatened Pacific salmon under the Endangered Species Act, the federal government will, in a sharp break from years of policy, take into account the number of hatchery salmon in the West’s rivers. The decision, contained in a draft document and confirmed by federal officials, is expected to inform policy as early as this summer. The controversy over whether hatchery salmon are a legitimate substitute for wild salmon, sparked by a 2001 court ruling that the Bush administration failed to appeal, draws an unusually sharp line between science and politics. On the science side: Six leading experts on salmon ecology wrote an article last month in the journal Science arguing that hatchery fish should not be counted, and contending that their recommendations had been suppressed by federal officials. On the politics side: Some groups that have supported the Bush administration — including utilities, timber companies, agriculture interests, and developers — don’t much like strict salmon-protection rules.