Bush administration cuts protections for Pacific salmon habitat

In a move it says reaffirms its “commitment to salmon recovery,” the Bush administration on Friday slashed critical habitat for Pacific salmon facing extinction. The National Marine Fisheries Service announced that federal protection for salmon habitat in California, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington would be cut from 167,700 miles of river to 33,300 miles — encompassing only waterways that the 19 listed species of threatened and endangered salmon use today, rather than their historic range. The feds agreed to revise the scope of the habitat designation in response to a lawsuit filed by the home-construction industry and property-rights advocates, which claimed that the economic impacts of the earlier designation hadn’t been assessed. Eco-advocates say this demonstrates the Bush administration’s desire to gut the Endangered Species Act.