The plight of the Pacific Salmon has been fervidly researched over the latter half of the twentieth century by scientists and environmentalists searching for an explanation behind the declining populations of these once vibrant species. While this sustained research has yet to reveal one specific causative factor, advancing technologies and intensive studies have supported the emergence of a new consensus, one that accepts the proposition that an aggregation of man made factors has inflicted the most damage upon Pacific Salmon and their habitats. While some biological and environmental factors have no doubt helped perpetuate the decline of Pacific Salmon populations, a growing body of science now pinpoints manmade pressures as the major source of salmon habitat degradation. The Pacific Northwest historically supported one of the densest populations in pre-industrial North America, due in large part to once plentiful Pacific Salmon populations. As recently as the early twentieth century, salmon populations remained plenteous, serving as a critical food staple for struggling families during the Great Depression. However, a multitude of factors-including overfishing, dam building, extensive logging, urbanization, and increases in hatchery-born salmon populations-have contributed to the recent declines in Pacific Salmon populations. Scientists and environmentalists have now uncovered another deadly man-made influence contributing to this population decline-pesticides. While the political quagmire surrounding Pacific Salmon has dominated local and state politics for years, pesticide use issues and the related dangers of pesticide contamination have only recently taken center stage-both locally and nationally. Salmon and politics are intertwined, especially in the Pacific Northwest, where the maintenance of healthy, functional salmon habitats has sparked ardent political debate at every level of government. The emerging national debate mirrors the competing factions on the local level-pitting pro-private land use and agriculture interest groups touting economic land use benefits over environmental protection, while environmentalist and conservationist groups voice growing concerns over the current administration' s commitment to environmental protection. President George W. Bush has been assailed with accusations of attempting to further undermine the already tenuous safeguards intended to protect endangered species, like the Pacific Salmon, by justifying policy decisions based on "rigged science," and by defying court orders to sidestep the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and its pro-environment protective measures. Furthermore, the Bush Administration has been accused of acquiescing to the pesticide industry by proposing and supporting pro-pesticide administrative rules. At the state level, Washington has enacted proactive executive and legislative measures to ameliorate the problem of salmon habitat degradation, including the establishment of the Governor's Statewide Strategy to Recover Salmon, and the enactment of the Watershed Management Act. The salmon debate has also spurred local grass roots support, such as a 2001 referendum-driven Seattle ordinance that sought to protect salmon watersheds. The ordinance required implementation of more effective water conservation techniques, such as retrofitting low income housing with efficient water conservation devices, and required the city to increase water conservation by twelve million gallons per day by 2010. Most of the aforementioned political debate and resulting legislation emanates from the deep cultural significance and iconic status of the Pacific Salmon, and thus the value of the sustained existence of these species cannot be easily quantified, either economically or culturally. This "concurrent" value is a main instigator for the diligent conservation efforts that have been waged by both local and federal environmental groups, as well as fishing industry lobbyists. Conversely, the Northwest relies heavily on the manipulation of water, an obvious and critical component of salmon habitats, to support the region's rapidly expanding population. For example, hydroelectric power dams provide nearly ninety percent of the region's electricity. Additionally, the logging industry, agriculture, and private land-users all rely on water to varying degrees for economic sustenance and have contributed excessive resources to fight state and federal regulations aimed at protecting salmon and their habitats. The competing interests at stake in the salmon conservation movement depict the all too familiar dilemma of the economic interests of the private landowner/business owner versus environmental and conservation interests. Part II of this Comment will briefly outline the historical, cultural and economic significance of Pacific Salmon and the multitude of values inherent in a healthy maintenance of the species. Part III will focus on the current federal pesticide regulatory framework, as well as federal efforts to protect salmon and their habitats under the ESA. More precisely, attention will be given to the ESA procedural guidelines for safeguarding salmon and their habitats and the problematic position of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in balancing ESA responsibilities with the duty to regulate domestic pesticide use under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). After analyzing the procedural mechanisms available to guide interagency cooperation to protect endangered species and their habitats, Part IV will explore the Pacific Salmon as an endangered species, the protections that the ESA should afford to salmon with an ESA listing, and the level and effects of pesticides in vital salmon habitats across the Northwest. Furthermore, the discussion in Part V will examine potential remedies to the procedural deficiencies and ineffective regime as implemented to regulate domestic pesticide use. A center point of this discussion will include analysis of recent federal court orders imposing restrictions on certain pesticide use in close proximity to salmon harboring watersheds. In the matter of Washington Toxics Coalition v. EPA, environmental groups and fishing industry activists challenged EPA's ineffectiveness and failure to implement ESA mandated safety measures to prevent harmful pesticides from polluting critical salmon habitats. Pesticide industry intervenors joined EPA in an attempt to impede the implementation of more rigid pesticide regulations, but round one of the litigation was a victory for environmentalists. Lastly, Part VI of this Comment will examine the possible future of domestic pesticide regulation and the likely effects of such regulation on business, private landowners, and the environment.
Nicholas W. Allen,
EPA "Oversight"? How The Environmental Protection Agency Has Failed To Protect Pacific Salmon From Dangerous Toxins,
Ocean & Coastal L.J.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.mainelaw.maine.edu/oclj/vol10/iss1/3