The Maine Woods

A Publication of the Forest Ecology Network

 Volume Five     Number One                           Late Winter 2001

 Maine Files Anti-Salmon Suit

by David Carle

Under the leadership of Gov. Angus King, the State of Maine filed a lawsuit on December 7, 2000 in federal court in Portland that attacks the federal government's decision to list wild Atlantic salmon in eight Maine rivers as an endangered species. The state is seeking an injunction to stop the listing from taking place.

According to King, the lawsuit was necessary because the federal government is not listening to Maine's concerns about an endangered species listing, and has not taken into consideration the efforts by the state to protect the Atlantic salmon. Maine has had a salmon restoration program in place since 1947 when about 2500 salmon returned to Maine rivers. Last year fewer than 1500 adult Atlantic salmon returned to Maine rivers. Hardly a ringing endorsement of state efforts.

During a press conference, the Governor made the bizzare claim that protecting Atlantic salmon as an endangered species "is a takeover of an entire section of the state by the federal government."

The affected rivers are the Dennys, East Machias, Machias, Narraguagus and Pleasant in Washington County; Cove Brook, a tributary of the Penobscot, in Winterport; the Ducktrap in Waldo County; and the Sheepscot in Lincoln County.

The state argues that millions of salmon, of several varieties, have been stocked in the rivers in the past century, so that the Feds. cannot claim that fish in the eight rivers constitute a "distinct population segment," the federal designation for the fish in question.

Based on their own studies, the federal fisheries agencies determined that the Maine fish were a "distinct population segment" and the last remaining wild Atlantic salmon in the country. As such, the fish warranted protection under the Endangered Species Act.

In the lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court in Portland, ME, the state alleges that the endangered species listing is "arbitrary and capricious." The state claims that the "listing was based, at least in part, on a desire to end or stay" the lawsuit filed by CAP and Defenders of Wildlife. Apparently, Gov. King does not believe the fact that fewer than 27 adult Atlantic salmon were documented as returning to the eight rivers in question has anything to do with the listing of the salmon as endangered.

An opinion poll conducted in March found that the majority of Mainers did not support such a lawsuit. The poll, by Strategic Marketing Services of Portland, found that 59 percent of those asked opposed use of taxpayer dollars to sue the federal government to prevent the addition of salmon to the endangered species list.

David Carle is the executive director of the
Conservation Action Project
15 Tanguay Ave. Box #2
Nashua, NH 03063-1786

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