"A federal appeals court panel on Friday ruled that wild steelhead remain an endangered species and rebuffed Central Valley irrigators' efforts to relax federal government protections on the Pacific salmon.
Six irrigation districts had challenged the National Marine Fisheries Service decision to list the oceangoing steelhead separately from more plentiful freshwater rainbow trout on grounds that the two fish interbreed and the steelhead were therefore protected from extinction. Both types of Pacific salmon are born in freshwater, but the steelhead migrate to the ocean while rainbow trout remain in rivers and lakes.
Wild steelhead once returned to the Sacramento and San Joaquin river systems in the millions each year, but their population has dwindled by 95% due to excessive water use, pollution, dam construction and urban sprawl, Earthjustice attorney Steve Mashuda argued on behalf of a group of conservationists and fishing enthusiasts."
Carol J. Williams reports for the Los Angeles Times' Greenspace blog August 20, 2010.