The purpose of these amendments is to help the Council develop a new Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife program. This new program will be organized around the framework concept. The program is intended to bring together, as closely as possible, Endangered Species Act requirements, the broader requirements of the Northwest Power Act and the policies of the states and Indian tribes of the Columbia River Basin into a comprehensive program that has a solid scientific foundation.
In the 1994 amendments to its fish and wildlife program, the Council introduced the idea of a ?framework? for the program and for the region's fish and wildlife recovery efforts at large. The framework would establish a logical structure for the measures in the Council's program. Based on the framework concept, the Council's program would also contain explicit goals and objectives for the program and state the program's scientific basis.
The framework concept was not further developed in the 1994 amendments. A number of reviews of the Council's fish and wildlife program, especially the Independent Scientific Group's 1996 Return to the River review requested by the Council, subsequently criticized the program for lacking an explicit statement of its underlying scientific foundation and, especially, for being a collection of measures not well tied to a comprehensive framework of goals and objectives. The annual reviews of project proposals by the Independent Scientific Review Panel have also repeatedly criticized the program for its failure to provide an adequate context for evaluating projects.
In addition, the number of fish and wildlife populations in the Columbia River Basin that have been listed under the Endangered Species Act continues to increase. But the region's experience with responding to these listings has also highlighted the need to think and plan for the needs of fish and wildlife populations in an integrated, comprehensive way. Piecemeal solutions can mean that efforts to recover one population jeopardize other populations.
Over the last two years, the Council worked with federal agencies, Indian tribes, states, industrial and agricultural interests, and environmental interests to develop and expand the framework concept through the Multi-Species Framework Project. The Council now is amending the fish and wildlife program to bring those efforts to fruition -- to adopt a program organized around a scientific and policy framework of goals and objectives.
The revised program will state explicitly what the Council is trying to accomplish with the fish and wildlife program, link it to a specific set of objectives and describe the strategies to be employed. It will also describe the scientific basis for the program. The program will both guide decisions on what actions to take and provide a reference point for evaluating success.