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Conservation Groups Seek Klamath Chinook Protection

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California may have earned kudos for its ambitious plan to clean up its portion of the Klamath River, but four conservation groups on Thursday said the waterway’s chinook salmon can’t wait that long.

The Center for Biological Diversity, Oregon Wild, the Environmental Protection Information Center and The Larch Company jointly filed a petition with the Fisheries Service of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Jan. 27 asking that Klamath River spring and fall chinook be placed on the endangered list, the Oregonian and other media outlets reported.

They would be added to the three fish species already listed in that basin, the Oregonian said: the Lost River sucker, the shortnose sucker and coho salmon.

“Things need to happen now to ensure chinook aren't driven to extinction,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity, to the Oregonian.

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Before the dams were built, wild spring run chinook in the Klamath Basin surpassed 100,000 fish. But between 2005 and 2009, less than 7,000 spring chinook returned to spawn, the petition said, according to the newspaper.

“Wild chinook salmon in the Klamath have been devastated by a century of habitat destruction and need the protection of the Endangered Species Act to survive,” Greenwald said in a statement. “Dams, water withdrawals, logging, hatcheries and now disease and climate change are driving the Klamath’s chinook salmon toward extinction.”