Endangered Species Act (ESA)
The Endangered Species Act (ESA) was passed by Congress in 1973 to prevent the loss of biodiversity in the United States. The intent of the Act is to "provide a means whereby the ecosystems upon which threatened and endangered species depend may be conserved and to provide a program for the conservation of such endangered species and threatened species." The Secretary of Interior has jurisdiction over terrestrial species and resident fish but the Secretary of Commerce has the power to list marine organisms or anadromous fish like salmon and steelhead. Similarly, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service administers ESA for the Department of Interior while the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has jurisdiction over anadromous species.
Species may be listed if:
- There is present or threatened destruction, modification or curtailment of a species habitat or range,
- Over-utilization for commerce, recreation, science or education,
- Losses due to disease or predation,
- Inadequate protection under current regulatory mechanisms or
- Other natural or man-made factors that threaten the existence of the species.
Northern California salmon and steelhead stocks were recognized as at risk of extinction by the American Fisheries Society more than a decade ago (Nehlsen et al., 1991; Higgins et al., 1992 ). Numerous studies by NMFS have followed to determine status and in some cases justify listing (Busby et al., 1996; Myers et al., 1998; NMFS, 1996; NOAA, 1998). A petition to list coho salmon was advanced to the Secretary of Commerce in 1994. While the Secretary is directed to list species, if merited, within a year of such a request, coho were not actually listed as a threatened species in northwestern California until May 1997. NMFS (2001) updated its review of coho salmon status in northern California and found that stocks in the Central California Evolutionarily Significant Unit (ESU) were endangered and "worse than indicated by previous reviews." They also found that the Southern Oregon/North California ESU was still trending down and likely to become endangered in the near future.
Species listings are supposed to be followed immediately by designation of critical habitat. Critical habitat for coho was designated by NMFS in November 1997 ( Federal Register Vol. 62 No. 227 ). Critical habitat has a clear effect on Federal land management, as specified in Section 7, and no agent of the government may act to negatively impact threatened or endangered species or their habitat. On private land there is no clear authority of NMFS to regulate activity, however, issuance of any Federal permit for activity on private lands would have to comply with ESA.
The original ESA emphasized recovery planning which was to proceed within one year after listing. As ESA was amended in 1982, it allows the development of a Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) which, if approved, then allows "incidental take" during the course of otherwise lawful business pursuits. Take as defined by ESA means "to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect." From 1983 to 1992 only 14 HCP's were adopted but by 1999 290 incidental take permits had been issued as a result of HCP agreements (Nelson, 1999). As of 1995, most HCP's covered areas of 1000 acres or less but newer HCP's cover areas greater than 500,000 acres. The formulation of most HCP's has had limited public involvement.
In 2000, members of the environmental community requested protection for coho salmon under the California Endangered Species Act. After a year of study and extensive collection of field data, the California Department of Fish and Game (2002) concluded that the species in fact needed protection. CDFG found coho absent from 59% of streams where they formerly occurred.
Busby, P.J., T.C.Wainwright, and G.J.Bryant. 1996. Status Review of West Coast Steelhead from Washington, Oregon and California. NOAA Technical Memorandum NMFS-NWFSC-27. National Marine Fisheries Service. Seattle WA.
California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG). 2002. Status review of California coho salmon north of San Francisco: Report to the California Fish and Game Commission. CDFG. Sacramento, CA. 336 pp. [6.9Mb]
Higgins, P.T., S. Dobush, and D. Fuller. 1992. Factors in Northern California Threatening Stocks with Extinction. Humboldt Chapter of American Fisheries Society. Arcata, CA. 25pp.
Myers, J.M., R.G. Kope, G.J. Bryant, et al. 1998. Status Review of Chinook Salmon from Washington, Idaho, Oregon, and California. U.S. Dept. Commer., NOAA Tech. Memo. NMFS-NWFSC-35, 443 p.
National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). 1996. Factors for Decline: A supplement to the Notice of Determination for West Coast Steelhead under the Endangered Species Act. NMFS Protected Species Branch (Portland, OR) and NMFS Protected Species Management Division (Long Beach, CA). 82 pp.
National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). 2001. Status Review Update for Coho Salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) from the Central California Coast and the California portion of the Southern Oregon/Northern California Coasts Evolutionarily Significant Units. NMFS, Southwest Fisheries Science Center. Santa Cruz, CA. 49 pp. [554k] without appendices. http://www.pfeg.noaa.gov/tib/Coho_status_2001.pdf or if you want the appendices: http://www.pfeg.noaa.gov/tib/Coho_status_2001_appendices.pdf
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 1997. Proposed Rules Designated Critical Habitat; Central California Coast and Southern Oregon/ Northern California Coast Coho Salmon. National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. Federal Register/Vol. 62, No. 227/Tuesday, November 25, 1997; 11pp.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). 1998. Endangered and Threatened Species: Proposed Endangered Status for Two Chinook Salmon ESUs and Proposed Threatened Status for Five Chinook Salmon ESUs; Proposed Redefinition, Threatened Status, and Revision of Critical Habitat for One Chinook Salmon ESU; Proposed Designation of Chinook Salmon Critical Habitat in California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho. National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), NOAA, Commerce. Federal Register/Vol. 63, No. 45/Monday, March 9, 1998/Proposed Rules. 40 pp.
Nehlsen, W., J.E. Williams, J.A.Lichatowich. 1991. Pacific Salmon at the Crossroads: Stocks at Risk from California, Oregon, Idaho, and Washington. Fisheries 16(2):4-21.
Nelson, M. 1999. Habitat Conservation Planning. USFWS Endangered Species Bulletin. XXIV, No. 6. November-December 1999. 2 p. http://endangered.fws.gov/esb/99/11-12/12-13.pdf