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10-Year agreement forged for Columbia River salmon harvest

PORTLAND, ORE. - A new 10-year agreement guiding salmon harvest and production on the Columbia River, approved yesterday by a federal judge, provides a long-term framework for rebuilding weak fish populations and conducting sustainable fisheries, state and tribal leaders said today.

The agreement, approved by U.S. District Court Judge Garr M. King in Portland, was developed by four of the Columbia Basin's treaty tribes (Umatilla, Yakama, Warm Springs and Nez Perce) and the states of Washington, Oregon and Idaho, under provisions of the U.S. v Oregon court judgment of 1969.

"We are thrilled Judge King has recognized the hard work and dedication of the parties who have worked tirelessly over the past few years to reach this agreement," said N. Kathryn Brigham, chairwoman of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission.

"Through this agreement the parties recognize each others' roles and responsibilities at the fisheries management table. We recognize that we are all co-managers of the Columbia River fishery and are dedicated to working together on the responsible management of that fishery for tribal and non-tribal interests for the next seven generations," said Brigham.

The 2008 U.S. v. Oregon fisheries agreement introduces a number of new approaches into the management of Columbia River fisheries. The agreement, said Brigham, details harvest management guidelines and artificial production techniques that, working together with habitat protection authorities and other enhancement efforts, will help to ensure that Columbia River fish runs continue to provide a broad range of benefits.

"With these agreements, fish harvest, hatchery operations and hydropower facilities all will be consistently managed under a framework that supports our shared goals of recovering wild salmon populations," said Jeff Koenings, Ph.D., director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Under the new agreement, all fishing seasons for upriver Chinook salmon and steelhead runs on the Columbia River will be managed according to stock abundance, rather than fixed harvest levels.

The agreement also incorporates adaptive management principles for hatchery operations and provides the parties flexibility to develop future hatchery modifications.

"The agreement's principles and actions complement salmon management in the recently approved 10-year Pacific Salmon Treaty accord and other statewide objectives," Koenings said.

"With this agreement we can now focus our efforts on the management of the Columbia River fisheries," said Curt Melcher, deputy director of Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The 2008 U.S. v. Oregon Agreement provides a framework within which the tribes, states and federal government may exercise their independent sovereign powers in a coordinated and systematic manner in order to protect, rebuild and enhance upper Columbia River fish runs while providing harvests for both treaty Indian and non-treaty fisheries.

The 2008 U.S. v. Oregon Agreement ends years of negotiation. A previous 10-year management agreement expired in 1999. Since then, Columbia River fishing seasons have been managed under a series of interim agreements.

The 2008 U.S. v. Oregon fisheries agreement is the result of several legal decisions by federal courts that determined tribes have a treaty right to harvest a fair share (50%) of the harvestable fish destined to reach the tribes' usual and accustomed fishing places, and established the tribes as co-managers of the fisheries.

The agreement is posted on the website www.critfc.org.

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