President Trump’s favorite assembly of federal judges, the 9th Circuit Court, backed a lower court's decision last week, approving hatchery fish to be dumped into the Olympic Peninsula's Elwha River—once again.

In 2016, after removal of two dams on the river, the State of Washington designated the Elwha a wild steelhead gene bank, thereby protecting native fish from sharing habitat with hatchery plants. But the National Marine Fisheries Service gave the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe the thumbs up to use hatchery fish to revive the ailing, and Endangered Species Act-listed, salmon and steelhead populations, deciding hatchery operations were in compliance with the ESA.

Wild steelhead advocates are disappointed but hopeful. "While we are considering next steps, we are at least pleased that our collaborative, legal efforts helped bring the current hatchery programs in line with the ESA, including denying the use of non-native Chambers Creek stock. And we are hopeful that the recent designation of the Elwha as a Wild Steelhead Gene Bank will have weight on our priorities for true wild steelhead recovery," says Rich Simms, founder/board member of the Wild Steelhead Coalition.

Meanwhile, the Elwha remains closed to sportfishing for another two years, from now till June 1, 2019.