Written by Leslie Taylor
A Eugene-based conservation group says a recent court decision may bolster its lawsuit seeking to curtail the state’s release of hatchery salmon into the McKenzie River.
Last month, a federal judge in Portland ordered federal and state fish managers to do more to ensure that hatchery fish don’t harm wild salmon and steelhead this year on the Sandy River.
The ruling could force a reduction in the release of hundreds of thousands of juvenile fish from the state-operated hatchery in the Sandy River basin and mean fewer hatchery fish returning to the river for anglers to catch in future years.
The Sandy River has its headwaters west of Mount Hood. It flows into the Columbia River east of Portland.
Eugene-based McKenzie Flyfishers, one of the plaintiffs in the Sandy River case, is seeking a similar outcome in a lawsuit it filed in December in U.S. District Court in Eugene challenging hatchery operations on the McKenzie River.
Both lawsuits allege the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and the federal National Marine Fisheries Service are violating the federal Endangered Species Act by failing to prevent the crossbreeding of wild and hatchery salmon in both rivers. The plaintiffs allege this so-called introgression jeopardizes the survival of the native wild stock by weakening their characteristics.
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