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Fish list grows crowded

Critical bull trout habitat in Basin Upper Sprague River sub-unit: Boulder Creek Brownsworth Creek Deming Creek Dixon Creek Leonard Creek North Fork Sprague River Sheepy Creek Upper Klamath Lake sub-unit: Agency Lake Sun Creek Sycan Marsh sub-unit: Coyote Creek Long Creek Sycan Marsh U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

September 26, 2004


Another federally protected fish could be entering the fight for Klamath Basin water.

Seven hundred and six miles of streams and 33,939 acres of lakes and marshes around Oregon were designated as critical habitat for the threatened bull trout last week. All of the lakes and marshes are in the Klamath Basin.

Federal officials are still trying to determine what the impact could be on the other protected fishes, two species of endangered suckers and the threatened coho salmon, and on the Klamath Irrigation Project.

"We don't really understand what it means, to be honest," said Dave Sabo, manager of the Project.

Agency Lake, which adjoins Upper Klamath Lake and was bought by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation for water storage in 1998, was one of the lakes listed as critical habitat.

"This adds another fish to be concerned about in Upper Klamath Lake," said Dan Keppen, executive director of the Klamath Water Users Association.

The lake is already subject to elevation requirements for the suckers and its water eventually makes its way into the flows down the Klamath River for coho.

Sabo said Bureau officials have started meeting with U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials to determine what the designation means for the Project in regard to Agency Lake.

If needed, formal consultation could take place and a biological opinion, a federal document that guides species management, could be written for the bull trout in the Basin.

Federal officials mark habitat as critical habitat under the Endangered Species Act when it is considered essential for the conservation of a threatened or endangered species and which may require special management considerations. The designation does not set up a preserve or refuge and applies only to situations where federal funding, permits or projects are involved.

"There is no doubt that it can affect federal actions and Reclamation has federal actions going on up there," Keppen said.

Agency Lake is also next to the Barnes Ranch, a property the Bureau has publicly talked about purchasing for added storage.

Although there are no known populations of bull trout in the lake, Service officials said it could have historically been a migratory corridor. Whether fish use the lake now will be one of the issues discussed by the Service and Bureau, Sabo said.

The bull trout is a cold water fish that usually stays near the headwaters of streams and in cool, clear lakes, say state and federal wildlife officials.

Last week's designation comes in response to a court order. In all, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designated about 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.

The court order comes from a case, filed in January 2002, brought by the Alliance for the Wild Rockies and Friends of the Wild Swan. The two environmental groups sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for not designating critical habitat when it listed bull trout as threatened throughout the lower 48 states in 1998.

The designation was the first of two ordered by the court.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is conducting a five-year review of the bull trout to determine the status of the fish, evaluating how it has fared since being listed for protection. The review is expected to be done next year.

Along with the designation of Agency Lake, the Sycan Marsh, a preserve run by The Nature Conservancy was also designated as critical habitat for bull trout.

On the Net:

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service bull trout: http://species.fws.gov/bulltrout






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