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Fish and Wildlife PRESS
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Designates Critical Habitat For Bull Trout
Complying with a court order, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today
announced its final rule designating approximately 3,780 miles of streams
and 110,364 acres of lakes and reservoirs in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and
Montana as critical habitat for the bull trout, a threatened species
protected under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). In Washington, 966 miles
of marine shoreline also are being designated.
Questions & Answers
The final designation is based on the best scientific and economic
information and recognizes the conservation efforts of states, tribes,
agencies and landowners. It covers only areas that are occupied by bull
trout and that contain physical and biological features considered
essential to the conservation of the species.
“As a result of the extensive public comments we received, and peer review,
we found there are many areas that already have conservation efforts in
place and do not need to be designated,” said Dave Allen, regional director
of the Service’s Pacific Region.
By state, the final designation covers approximately:
o Idaho: 293 stream miles and 27,296 acres of lakes or reservoirs
o Montana: 1,058 stream miles and 31,916 acres of lakes or reservoirs
o Oregon: 911 stream miles and 24,610 acres of lakes or reservoirs
o Washington: 1,519 stream miles, 26,542 acres of lakes or reservoirs
and 966 miles of marine shoreline
State-by-state descriptions of the critical habitat units, maps,
photographs and other materials relating to today’s announcement may be
found on the Pacific Region’s Bull Trout Website at
No critical habitat is being designated for the Jarbidge River population
of bull trout in Nevada and southern Idaho, where the Secretary of the
Interior determined that the benefits of excluding the area outweighed the
benefits of including it. The Endangered Species Act gives the Secretary
broad discretion to exclude areas from critical habitat on the basis of
economic impact, the impact on national security or any other relevant
impact unless such exclusions would result in the extinction of the
Areas already covered by approved conservation agreements and habitat
management plans that are sufficient to conserve the species were excluded
from the final rule. Some examples of these are the Northwest Forest Plan
and the Washington Forest Practices Rule, which provide conservation
benefits for the bull trout that are superior to those that would be
provided by a critical habitat designation; numerous conservation
agreements with Native American tribes and private landowners within the
bull trout’s range; and species conservation plans that address bull trout
on military installations, such as the U.S. Army’s Fort Lewis, the Naval
Air Station on Whidbey Island and the Naval Radio Station Jim Creek in
Washington and the Bayview Acoustic Research Center in Idaho. Military
training areas outside the above installations, in Dabob Bay and Crescent
Harbor, Washington, were excluded from critical habitat because these
training areas are essential for national security.
The Service also recognized that the Federal Columbia River Power System
has spent $3.3 billion on restoration of habitat in the river system over
the past 20 years, most of which benefited bull trout, and that
conservation efforts by 11 federal agencies and 4 states that manage
portions of the river basin provide protection for the bull trout’s
habitat. Consequently, those areas were excluded. The State of Idaho has
entered into an agreement with the Department of the Interior and the Nez
Perce Tribe to protect habitat in the Snake River Basin so the area covered
by that agreement also was excluded.
Additionally, unoccupied habitat (areas where the species hasn’t been
documented for the last 20 years) is excluded from the final rule. Under
the ESA, the Secretary of the Interior may include unoccupied habitat only
if it is determined to be essential to the conservation of the species. In
the case of the bull trout, the best scientific data available was not
sufficient for the Secretary to make such a determination at this time.
Also excluded from the final designation are all reservoirs and pools
behind dams whose primary purpose is for energy production, flood control
or water supply for human consumption. Disruption of these functions could
compromise human health and safety or result in large economic costs.
No exclusions are being made in this final designation for economic
reasons. Economic analyses of the Service’s earlier bull trout critical
habitat proposals, which were larger than this final designation, found
that potential economic impacts could total up to $26 million a year for
the Columbia and Klamath populations and about $61 million a year for the
Coastal-Puget Sound, St. Mary-Belly and Jarbidge populations combined.
In response to several requests, and in accordance with the Act, the
Service also is conducting a 5-year review of the bull trout to determine
whether a change in its listing status is warranted. That review is
expected to be finished in 2005. Meanwhile, work on a recovery plan for
bull trout is on hold until the review is completed. The 5-year review, as
required for all listed species under the ESA, will assess the best
available information on how bull trout have fared since they were listed
for protection across their range in the lower 48 states in 1999. This will
include analyses of population data and threats to the species.
A member of the char subgroup of the salmon family, the bull trout is
primarily threatened by habitat degradation and fragmentation, blockage of
migratory corridors, poor water quality, past fisheries management and the
introduction of non-native species such as brown, lake and brook trout.
Today’s announcement covers all five populations of bull trout: the
Columbia River Basin population, the Klamath River Basin population, the
Coastal-Puget Sound population, the Jarbidge (Nevada) population and the
Saint Mary-Belly (Montana) population.
In June 2004, the Service proposed critical habitat for the Coastal-Puget
Sound, Jarbidge and Saint Mary-Belly populations. At that time the agency
proposed to designate a total of 2,290 miles of streams in western
Washington as bull trout critical habitat, along with 52,540 acres of lakes
and reservoirs and marine habitat paralleling 985 miles of shoreline. In
Nevada and Idaho, a total of 131 stream miles was proposed as critical
habitat for the Jarbidge population. And in Northwest Montana, 88 miles of
streams and 6,295 acres of lakes and reservoirs were proposed as critical
habitat for bull trout in the Saint Mary River and Belly River drainages.
In October 2004, the Service designated approximately 1,748 miles of
streams and 61,235 acres of lakes in the Columbia and Klamath River basins
of Oregon, Washington, and Idaho as critical habitat for bull trout. In
response to a lawsuit, the Service agreed to review that critical habitat
“Public comments in general, and particularly technical comments from
local, state and federal agencies and Native American tribes, were very
useful in focusing the final designation to those areas most essential to
the conservation of the species,” Regional Director Allen said. “Numerous
public meetings and an independent peer review process provided useful
technical information and constructive criticism that promoted further
internal critical review.”
Critical habitat is a term in the Endangered Species Act. It identifies
geographic areas that contain features essential for the conservation of a
threatened or endangered species and which may require special management
considerations. The designation of critical habitat does not affect land
ownership or establish a refuge, wilderness, reserve, preserve or other
conservation area. It does not allow government or public access to private
lands. A critical habitat designation does not impose restrictions on
private lands unless federal funds, permits or activities are involved.
This final rule was prepared pursuant to a court order resulting from a
lawsuit filed against the Service by the Alliance for the Wild Rockies and
Friends of the Wild Swan.
In 30 years of implementing the ESA, the Service has found that the
designation of critical habitat provides little additional protection for
most listed species, while preventing the Service from using scarce
conservation resources for activities with greater conservation benefits.
In almost all cases, recovery of listed species will come through voluntary
cooperative partnerships, not regulatory measures such as critical habitat.
Habitat is also protected through cooperative measures under the Endangered
Species Act including Habitat Conservation Plans, Safe Harbor Agreements,
Candidate Conservation Agreements and state programs. In addition,
voluntary partnership programs such as the Service's Private Stewardship
Grants and Partners for Fish and Wildlife program also restore habitat.
Habitat for protected species is provided on many national wildlife refuges
managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and on state wildlife
The Final Rule Designating Critical Habitat for Bull Trout will publish in
the September 26, 2005, edition of the Federal Register.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency
responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and
plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American
people. The Service manages the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge
System which encompasses 545 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small
wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national
fish hatcheries, 63 fishery resource offices and 81 ecological services
field stations. The agency enforces Federal wildlife laws, administers the
Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores
nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat
such as wetlands, and helps foreign and Native American tribal governments
with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program
that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing
and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.
Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:15 AM Pacific
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