State officials and businesses fear the endangered species listing will hurt industry.

PORTLAND (AP) – A federal judge Thursday dismissed a lawsuit by the state and Maine business groups challenging the federal government’s designation of wild Atlantic salmon in Maine as endangered.

Judge Gene Carter ruled that the federal government did not act in an arbitrary manner when it designated salmon in eight Maine rivers as distinct populations. That designation allowed the government to list the fish as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act.

The state argued that the fish are not genetically unique and worthy of protection because of decades of interbreeding between stocked salmon and their wild counterparts. The suit claimed that the decision to list the salmon as a “distinct population segment” was arbitrary and capricious and without supporting evidence.

In an 87-page decision, Carter disagreed.

“The state’s arguments fail to convince the court that the (federal government) considered anything other than the best scientific evidence and the (Endangered Species Act) in making the listing decision,” Carter wrote.

The National Marine Fisheries Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in November 2000 designated wild Atlantic salmon as endangered in eight Down East rivers.

The rivers are the Dennys, East Machias, Machias, Narraguagus, Pleasant, Ducktrap, Sheepscot and Cove Brook, an estuary of the Penobscot River.

But Maine officials and businesses in the salmon-farming, blueberry and paper industries feared the endangered species listing would lead to expensive regulations and hurt their industries.

Carter’s ruling could clear the way for the federal government to place restrictions or safeguards on how the rivers can be used.

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