Profiles in the Law
The Salmon Man
By Cliff Collins
Coast born-and-bred David A. Moskowitz wasted no time getting Oregonized.
never before set foot in the state, the native Pennsylvanian arrived here two
days before starting law school, was skiing on Mount Hood his first day in the
state, went fishing his first weekend and met his future wife his first day
of law school.
wasting time isn't something Moskowitz cottons to. Which is what led him to
assume his latest conservation-oriented job, with a group that tries to save
healthy salmon runs before they become endangered. Appointed this year as director
of The Wild Salmon Center's Cascadia biodiversity program,
Moskowitz has teamed up with an old fishing buddy, Guido Rahr, the Portland-based
nonprofit organization's president, at the only international salmon and steelhead
conservation group in the Western Hemisphere.
Wild Salmon Center takes a somewhat different approach from most other groups
fighting for fish: It seeks out the 'last, best' streams around the
Pacific Rim to try to preserve healthy fish runs before they get to the stage
of being designated threatened or endangered.
a conservationist, Moskowitz was to the manner born. 'I spent my youth
romping around the fields and woods' in rural Pennsylvania, he says. He
helped tend the families' livestock, cut hay, was an active Boy Scout, and by
his late teens also was climbing mountains and snow skiing. 'I developed
a very strong liking for being outside.'
completing Pennsylvania State University, he taught for four years in a Connecticut
prep school for learning disabled and dyslexic youth, stressing outdoor education
and environmental service. One of his class's projects was to study the siting
of a hydroelectric dam on a river. He listened to hearings and talked with some
of the lawyers representing groups opposing the dam. Moskowitz came out of the
experience wanting to go to law school. He had entered teaching thinking he
could inspire respect for the natural world, and he decided that, with a law
degree, 'I could have a bigger impact, more quickly and more directly.'
applied to environmental law programs across the country, but seeing a picture
on the Northwestern School of Law at Lewis & Clark school catalog, with
the standard gorgeous view of Mount Hood from the Rose Garden, made the choice
an easy one. On his first day of classes, he met Leslie Bottomly. 'It happened
fast,' he recalls. 'I was totally smitten.' Two years later,
he married Bottomly, now an employment attorney and a partner at Ater Wynne.
'loved' law school, too, even though he failed the bar exam on the
first attempt. But he got a job anyway, as executive director of the Association
of Northwest Steelheaders. He had already paid to take the bar exam again, hadn't
been studying for it because he was working full time, but passed anyway, probably
because, by then, 'the pressure was off,' he surmises.
next two stops were at the local groups Oregon Trout and the Native Fish Society,
where he learned how to hold his own against the rapids of politics, economics,
personalities and all of the other slick rocks that fighters for fish face.
In 1996, he moved into the even more treacherous waters of the public sector:
He became a member of the team working for the National Marine Fisheries Service
whose job was drafting regulations, habitat designations and Endangered Species
was during the time when Gov. John Kitzhaber was putting together his Oregon
Plan to try to head off ESA listings for the Oregon coho. Moskowitz says there
was much internal division within his agency over the question of whether Oregon
should get the chance to work out its own solution without having the ESA imposed
by the federal government. The agency gave the state the OK, but environmentalists
sued, then a year later won in court. It was a tough time for the agency, he
says, with many dedicated people impeded by bureaucratic fish ladders to leap.
the coho gained listing, the Portland area needed someone to direct fish-saving
efforts in the region. Metro, the agency charged with that task, chose Moskowitz.
He toiled at Metro for a couple of years, but was persuaded when Rahr made the
long promised 'offer you can't refuse': to join him at The Wild Salmon
Center. 'While I enjoy working with public agencies, I feel more at home
in a private, nonprofit,' Moskowitz says. 'It allows me to be more
He will need all the creative talent he can muster in such challenges as trying to persuade rural Oregonians along the coast that their interests in making a living and avoiding flooding should and do coincide with preserving fish runs. Facing those endeavors, Moskowitz prizes his legal training. 'Even though I've never taken a deposition or been in front of a judge, I definitely use my legal skills every day in my career.' +
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Cliff Collins is a Portland free-lance writer.