This Article examines the nature of the threats that climate change poses and will continue to pose for salmon recovery, as well as possible legal responses to combat these threats. It also considers the future prospects of Pacific salmon in a world that will include significant climate change and other threats to preserving and equitably apportioning the salmon resource, whose environmental sensitivity and expansive life cycle will continue to pose substantial challenges for the foreseeable future.
The Tana River in northernmost Norway is the most diverse Atlantic salmon river in the world. Its native salmon population has declined dramatically and resulted in a fishing ban that has affected indigenous life and distressed the local economy. Concern is mounting over the secondary infestation of Pacific pink salmon, transplanted decades ago, which creates a potential threat to the river’s genetic diversity and challenges the regime structures of international fisheries.
State wildlife agencies commonly claim they are entitled to manage wildlife under the public trust doctrine (PTD). This assertion is frequently made in judicial proceedings, with state requests that their managerial authority be given due force throughout state, private, federal, and even tribal lands. One might conclude that a rich body of PTD practices and policies exists for wildlife; in reality, the PTD in state wildlife management proves to be ephemeral.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s opinion in Weyerhaeuser Co. v. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service raises important questions about the scope of the Endangered Species Act’s (ESA’s) protections for critical habitat. Foremost among them is a question one might think was long settled: what is “habitat”? In a short ruling, the Weyerhaeuser Court opined that “critical habitat” must first be “habitat,” but it did not attempt to define exactly what habitat is or how much deference the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service should get on what is both a biological and policy question.
This Article, adapted from Chapter 16 of What Can Animal Law Learn From Environmental Law?, 2d Edition (ELI Press, forthcoming 2020), explores existing and potential wildlife conservation policies that could play a vital role in mitigating global climate change. It describes how climate change is impacting wildlife and biodiversity around the globe and reviews the history and current state of U.S. policy, including how the federal government currently manages climate change issues under the ESA.