Lawmakers back measure to restore endangered listings, keep kokanee proposal afloat

July 27, 2011

By Warren Kagarise

NEW — 8 p.m. July 27, 2011

In a rare bipartisan effort, the U.S. House of Representatives backed a proposal Wednesday to allow officials to add animals and plants to the Endangered Species Act — a measure important to a coming protection decision for Lake Sammamish kokanee salmon.

In a spending bill, House Republicans called for only allowing the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to remove species from the endangered list, rather than add others. U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks, a powerful Belfair Democrat, led the effort to strip the so-called “extinction rider” from the spending bill.

U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert, Issaquah’s representative in Congress and a Republican, joined 36 other GOP representatives and 187 Democrats to support Dicks’ amendment.

Under a recent legal agreement between the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the Center for Biological Diversity, the agency is required to decide by the end of the year whether the Lake Sammamish kokanee proposal should proceed.

Local environmental groups, governments and the Snoqualmie Tribe petitioned in 2007 to list the landlocked salmon species as endangered.

If the agency lists a species as endangered, biologists create rules to protect the animal from human interference, designate critical habitat and joins state agencies, local governments and nonprofit organizations to increase the species’ chance of survival.

“The extinction rider would have been a disaster for hundreds of animals and plants across the country that desperately need the help of the Endangered Species Act to survive,” Noah Greenwald, endangered species program director for the Arizona-based Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement.

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