Washington Law Review


Within the last decade, the Columbia Basin, once home to the world's largest salmon runs, has witnessed numerous listings of its signature natural resource under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). These listings have propelled the ESA into the forefront of land and water use decisionmaking across a vast landscape of the Pacific Northwest This Article examines the Columbia Basin salmon listings and their aftermath. Specifically, it considers the effect of the ESA's consultation requirements on hydroelectric, hatchery, harvest, and habitat decisionmaking. The Article draws several lessons from this examination, many of them surprising, including the assertion that the listings have produced many innovations in the implementation of the statute but few improvements in the condition of listed Columbia Basin salmon, due to the persistent sensitivity of consultation process to economic concerns. The Article concludes that this reluctance to disturb ongoing activities damaging salmon does not bode well for the continued existence of the most imperiled of the species, the Snake River runs.

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