Fish and Wildlife Service Designates Bull Trout Habitat
SPOKANE, Wash. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Friday said it will designate more than 100,000 acres of lakes and reservoirs in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana as critical habitat for the threatened bull trout.
Environmental groups who pushed for more habitat for the fish said they were disappointed by the final totals, blaming pressure from the Bush administration on the agency.
"They eliminated 82 percent of what they originally proposed for critical habitat," said Arlene Montgomery of Friends of the Wild Swan, based in Swan Lake, Mont., which sued the government on behalf of the bull trout.
The Fish and Wildlife Service said vast areas of the Pacific Northwest are already protected in other ways.
"We found there are many areas that already have conservation efforts in place and do not need to be designated," said Dave Allen, director of the service's Pacific Region.
Some 3,780 miles of streams and 110,364 acres of lakes and reservoirs were designated critical habitat for the threatened fish.
Critical habitat designations require managers of federal lands to consult with wildlife biologists on projects such as timber sales or livestock grazing plans that could harm protected species.
In 2002, federal biologists proposed as critical habitat more than 18,000 miles of rivers and streams and 530,000 acres of lakes and reservoirs in the four states.
Areas where the species has not been documented for the past 20 years were excluded from the final designated habitat. Also excluded were all reservoirs behind dams whose primary purpose is energy production, flood control or water for human consumption.
The Fish and Wildlife Service is also conducting a review of the bull trout to determine whether a change in its listing status is warranted. That review is expected to be finished soon. Work on a recovery plan for bull trout is on hold until the review is completed.
Source: Associated Press