Originally Posted by restrac2000
Has anyone ever done a FOIA request for documents about the decision, process and policy?
Not necessary, The policy is the ESA, federal agencies must consult with either NMFS or USFWS (base don the species of concern) to ensure that actions directly taken, permitted, or funded do jeopordize the continued existence a ESA listed fish species or destroy or adversely modify any designated critical habitat for the species.
This is done through ESA Section 7 consultation. In this case the USFS implements/adminsters the MF Salmon permit system. Every so often they have to re-consult with the NMFS to ensure that implementation of this program does not jeopordize the continued existence of the listed Chinook unit. IN this case the listed Chinook unit covers a huge area. not just Chinook in the Middle Fork. The ultimate decision is weather or not letting folks float down the MF Salmon river under the permit system jeopordizes the continued existence of Chinook salmon in the Snake River Spring Chinook Evolutionary Significant Unit (ESU). This ESU inincludes naturally spawned spring/summer-run Chinook salmon originating from the mainstem Snake River and the Tucannon River, Grande Ronde River, Imnaha River, and Salmon River subbasins. It also includes spring/summer-run Chinook salmon from 11 artificial propagation programs.
So when the NMFS/USFS analyze effects they should not only analyze what effects floaters have by potentially disturbing on average 1% of Chinook that may spawn in the MF Salmon River basin, but place that into the context of what that effect is in relation to the long term existance or risk to the entire ESU.
The way this process works is that the USFS drafts a biological assessment where they lay out the program and analyze potential effects. Where effects may occur, they typically develop measures to minimize or avoid negative effects. They submit the document to NMFS. If NMFS concurs they have essentially minimized those effects and are not likely to adversely affect the species, then they just write a letter concuring with the USFS. If they think that there are some actual effects then they write a document called a biological opinion. Where they lay out measures to minimize/avoid impacts, they can also include an icidental take statement for minor effects to listed species, such as floating past a few spawners with some level of potential disturbance to an small part of the population that inhabits the MF Salmon and a very very small proportion of the entire ESU, if they believe that such harassment or any potential minor mortality will not jeoprodize the continued existence of the entire listed ESU. Does anyone think that floating past 1% of the redds with some level of small potential for actual disturbance would jeopordize the continued existence of the entire Snake River spring Chinook ESU or even the spring Chinook population that inhabits the MF Salmon sub basin?
In this case, the USFS threw up a bunch of speculative measures to ensure that NMFS would concur with their assessment that the permit system is not likely to adversley affect the Snake River Spring Chinook Salmon ESU. And NMFS concurred. The question is, would NMFS not have concurred with a "not likely to advesely affect" determination by the USFS if they had left out the Aug 15 to Sept 15 no -reissuance of canceled permits rule? IF not, all NMFS would have had to do was write a Biological Opinion instead of a concurrence letter and allow some minimal level of take in the form of potential harassment by floaters that on average may pass by 1% of spawners in the MF Salmon sub basin or less than 0.1% of spawners as a proportion of the Snake Rive Spring Chinook ESU, the level at which the jeopordy determination is made.