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Critical Habitat Proposed for Washington's Coastal-Puget Sound Population of Bull Trout, 6/22/04

followed by: Critical Habitat Proposed for the Saint Mary and Belly Rivers in Northwest
                                  Montana

 

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service News Release.  Proposal will publish in the June 25 edition of the Federal Register

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing critical habitat for the
Coastal-Puget Sound population of bull trout, which was listed as a
threatened species in 1999.

Bull trout (Salvelinus confluentus), is a threatened species protected
under the Federal Endangered Species Act. The Service's action is in
response to a lawsuit filed by the Alliance for the Wild Rockies and
Friends of the Wild Swan.

The Coastal-Puget Sound population is located west of the Cascade mountains
in the state of Washington. It includes bull trout in the Puget Sound
Management Unit and the Olympic Peninsula Management Unit. The Puget Sound
Management Unit includes all watersheds within the Puget Sound basin and
the marine near-shore areas of Puget Sound. The Olympic Peninsula
Management Unit includes all watersheds within the Olympic Peninsula and
the near-shore marine waters of the Pacific Ocean, Strait of Juan de Fuca
and Hood Canal.

The critical habitat proposal calls for a total of 2,290 miles of streams
in western Washington to be designated as bull trout critical habitat,
along with 52,540 acres of lakes and reservoirs and marine habitat
paralleling 985 miles of shoreline. Details of the critical habitat
proposal will be included in the maps and documents that are published
along with the rule in the Federal Register.

"Our proposal is based on the best available science and includes areas
that contain qualities that may be essential to the conservation and
recovery of bull trout in western Washington," said Dave Allen, Regional
Director of the Service's Pacific Region. "To ensure that the final
critical habitat designation is as accurate as possible we encourage people
to review our proposal in detail and provide comments and any additional
information they believe is relevant."

When considering which areas to include in the proposed critical habitat
rule, the Service required that areas contain one or both of the following:
(1) spawning, rearing, foraging, or over-wintering habitat to support
essential existing bull trout local populations; (2) movement corridors
necessary for maintaining essential migratory life-history forms of the
species.

The proposal excludes properties where special management for bull trout
already exists, such as an approved Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP),
designated private lands under state regulations based on the Washington
Forest and Fish Report (FFR), Integrated Natural Resource Management Plan
(INRMP), or other natural resource plan. These plans, developed
cooperatively with the Service, demonstrate a long-term commitment to
conserve and benefit the species and the habitat on which it depends.
Today's proposal of critical habitat for the bull trout exempts lands
covered by the Washington Department of Natural Resources, City of Seattle
Cedar River Watershed, Tacoma Water, and Simpson Timber Company HCPs;
private timber lands covered under the FFR-based regulations; the Jim Creek
Naval Antenna Station near Arlington, Washington covered under an INRMP;
and the Quinault Indian Reservation covered under an approved Forest
Management Plan.

"We appreciate the initiative of the agencies and tribes that have worked
cooperatively with us to protect bull trout," said Ken Berg, Manager of the
Service's Western Washington Fish and Wildlife Office. "We will continue,
between now and the final critical habitat designation, to work with any
interested parties to develop special management plans."

The public will have until August 25, 2004, to comment on the proposal and
provide comments and additional information. An economic analysis of the
critical habitat proposal will be prepared and made available for public
comment before a final decision is made.  The Service may exclude areas
from the final designation if the benefit of exclusion outweighs the
benefit of inclusion. Over the next few months, the Service will be
considering whether all of the areas in both management units are essential
to the conservation of the species.

The Coastal-Puget Sound population of bull trout is one of five populations
of bull trout, which is protected as a threatened species throughout its
range in the coterminous United States ? spanning parts of Oregon,
Washington, Idaho, Montana and Nevada.

Two public information meetings and two public hearings will occur in July
and August.

Public meetings are set for:

$     July 12, 2004           Sequim, Washington                  Dungeness
River
            6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Audubon Center

$     July 14, 2004                 Edmonds, Washington
Edmonds City Hall
4 p.m. to 7 p.m.                                      121 5th Avenue N.

Hearings are set for:

Aug. 10, 2004                       Tumwater, WA
Comfort Inn
1 p.m. to 3 p.m. and
(Exit 101 off Interstate 5)
6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Information will be available one hour before the start of each hearing.


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 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.

In 30 years of implementing the Endangered Species Act, the Service has
found that the designation of critical habitat provides little additional
protection to 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 endangered species is provided on many national wildlife
refuges, managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and state wildlife
management areas.

The Alliance for the Wild Rockies and Friends of the Wild Swan originally
sued the Service for not designating critical habitat after listing bull
trout in 1999 as threatened throughout its range in the lower 48 states. At
the time, the Service had been unable to complete critical habitat
determinations because of budget constraints.

In accordance with a court settlement, reached in January 2002 by Service,
the Alliance for the Wild Rockies and Friends of the Wild Swan ? the
Service also committed to propose critical habitat for the Jarbidge River
(Nevada) population of bull trout and the St. Mary-Belly River (Montana)
population of bull trout. For the Jarbidge River population, the Service
has proposed 131 miles of streams in Idaho and Nevada as bull trout
critical habitat. For the St. Mary-Belly River population, 88 miles of
streams and 6,295 acres of lakes in Montana are proposed as critical
habitat for bull trout.

In November 2001, also in accordance with the court settlement, the Service
proposed to designate 18,175 miles of rivers and streams and 498,782 acres
of lakes and reservoirs in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana as
critical habitat for the Columbia River population of bull trout. The
Service also proposed at that time to designate 396 miles of streams and
3,939 acres of lakes and marshes in Oregon as critical habitat for the
Klamath River Basin population of bull trout. Those proposals are expected
to be finalized in September 2004.

Bull trout have declined due to 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. While bull trout occur over a large area, many of the
populations are small and isolated from each other, making them more
susceptible to local extinctions.

Bull trout are members of the char subgroup of the salmon family. They
require very cold, clean water to thrive and are excellent indicators of
water quality and stream health. Char have light-colored spots on a darker
background ? the reverse of the dark-spots-on-light-background pattern of
trout and salmon. Bull trout have a large, flattened head and pale-yellow
to crimson body spots on an olive green to brown background. They lack
teeth in the roof of the mouth.

Some bull trout populations are migratory, spending portions of their life
cycle in larger rivers, lakes or marine environments before returning to
smaller streams to spawn, while others complete their entire life cycle in
the same stream. They can grow to more than 20 pounds in lake environments
and live up to 12 years. Under exceptional circumstances, they can live
more than 20 years.

The critical habitat proposal for the Coastal-Puget Sound population of
bull trout, and for the Jarbidge River and St. Mary-Belly River
populations, will be published in the Federal Register on June 25, 2004
initiating a 60-day comment period that ends on August 25, 2004. Comments
may be sent to John Young, Bull Trout Coordinator, U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service, 911 N.E. 11th Avenue, Portland, OR 97232. Comments may also be
submitted on the Pacific Region's Bull Trout Web site at
r1bulltroutch@r1.fws.gov or faxed to John Young at 503-231-6243.

Maps, fact sheets, photographs and other materials relating to today's
announcement may be found on the Pacific Region's Bull Trout Web site at
http://species.fws.gov/bulltrout. Television stations interested in video
footage of bull trout may call the Service's Regional External Affairs
Office at 503-231-6121.

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 544 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small
wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national
fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resources 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 Assistance
program, which distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes
on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.

-----------------------------***-----------------------------
 

 

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service News Release

For Release on June 22, 2004

Contacts:  Wade Fredenberg 406-758-6872
(R1) 04-64
                 Diane Katzenberger 303-236-4578


Critical Habitat Proposed for the Saint Mary and Belly Rivers in Northwest
                                  Montana

       Proposed rule will publish in the Federal Register on June 25

The  U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing critical habitat for bull
trout  that encompasses 88 miles of streams and 6,295 acres of lakes in the
Saint  Mary  River  and  Belly  River  drainages in northwest Montana. This
designation  encompasses the Saint Mary River Belly River population of the
species.

Bull  trout  (Salvelinus  confluentus)  was  listed as a threatened species
under  the  Federal Endangered Species Act in 1999. The Service's action is
in  response  to  a  lawsuit filed by the Alliance for the Wild Rockies and
Friends of the Wild Swan.

Approximately one-half of the Saint Mary River drainage and the entire
headwaters of the Belly River watershed are in Glacier National Park.  Both
streams flow northward into Alberta, Canada where they join the South
Saskatchewan River system and eventually flow to Hudson Bay. The eastern
(downstream) reaches of the Saint Mary River watershed lie entirely within
the boundaries of the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. Details of the critical
habitat proposal will be included in the maps and documents that are
published along with the rule in the Federal Register.

When considering which areas to include in the proposed critical habitat
rule, the Service required that areas contain one or both of the following:
(1) spawning, rearing, foraging, or over-wintering habitat to support
essential existing bull trout local populations; (2) movement corridors
necessary for maintaining essential migratory life-history forms of the
species.

"The Service is proposing only those specific areas determined to be
essential to the bull trout's conservation, based on the best scientific
information currently available," said Ralph Morgenweck, the Service's
Director for the Mountain-Prairie Region. "To ensure that the final
critical habitat designation is as accurate as possible we encourage people
to review our proposal and provide comments and any additional information
they believe is relevant.  The Service will consider all available
information before making a final decision."

The public will have until August 25, 2004, to comment on the proposal and
provide comments and additional information. An economic analysis of the
critical habitat proposal will be prepared and made available for public
comment before a final decision is made.  The Service may exclude areas
from the final description if the benefit of exclusion outweighs the
benefit of inclusion. Over the next few months, the Service will be
considering whether all the areas proposed for designation are essential to
the conservation of the species.

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 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.

In 30 years of implementing the Endangered Species Act, the Service has
found that the designation of critical habitat provides little additional
protection to 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 endangered species is provided on many national wildlife
refuges, managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and state wildlife
management areas.

In January 2002, the Service and the Alliance for the Wild Rockies and
Friends of the Wild Swan reached a court settlement establishing a schedule
for the proposal of critical habitat for bull trout. The two environmental
groups sued the Service for not designating critical habitat after listing
bull trout in 1999 as threatened throughout its range in the lower 48
states. At the time, the Service had been unable to complete critical
habitat determinations because of budget constraints.

In accordance with the court settlement, the Service also proposed to
designate critical habitat for the Coastal-Puget Sound (Washington)
population of bull trout and the Jarbidge River (Nevada) populations of
bull trout. For the Coastal-Puget Sound population, the Service proposed
2,290 miles of streams, 52,540 acres of lakes and 985 miles of marine
habitat that parallels 985 miles of shoreline in western Washington as bull
trout critical habitat. For the Jarbidge River population, 131 miles of
streams in Idaho and Nevada are proposed as critical habitat for bull trout
are under consideration as critical habitat for bull trout.

In November 2001, also in accordance with the court settlement, the Service
proposed to designate 18, 175 miles of rivers and streams and 498,782 acres
of lakes and reservoirs in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana as
critical habitat for the Columbia River population of bull trout. The
Service also proposed at that time to designate 396 miles of streams and
33,939 acres of lakes and marshes in Oregon as critical habitat for the
Klamath River Basin population of bull trout. Those proposals are expected
to be finalized in September 2004.

Bull trout have declined due to 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. While bull trout occur over a large area, many of the
populations are small and isolated from each other, making them more
susceptible to local extinctions.

Bull trout are members of the char subgroup of the salmon family. They
require very cold, clean water to thrive and are excellent indicators of
water quality and stream health. Char have light-colored spots on a darker
background, reversing the dark-spots-on-light-background pattern of trout
and salmon. Bull trout have a large, flattened head and pale-yellow to
crimson body spots on an olive green to brown background. They lack teeth
in the roof of the mouth.

Some bull trout populations are migratory, spending portions of their life
cycle in larger rivers, lakes or marine environments before returning to
smaller streams to spawn, while others complete their entire life cycle in
the same stream. They can grow to more than 20 pounds in lake environments
and live up to 12 years. Under exceptional circumstances, they can live
more than 20 years.

The critical habitat proposal for the St. Mary-Belly River, Coastal-Puget
Sound and Jarbidge River populations of bull trout will be published in the
Federal Register on June 25, 2004 initiating a 60-day comment period that
ends on August 25, 2004. Comments may be sent to John Young, Bull Trout
Coordinator, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 911 N.E. 11th Avenue,
Portland, OR 97232. Comments may also be submitted on our Bull Trout
Website at or faxed to r1bulltroutch@r1.fws.gov John Young at 503-231-6243.

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 544 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small
wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national
fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resources 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 Assistance
program, which distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes
on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.



+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
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expressed  a  prior interest in receiving this information for non-profit
research and  educational purposes only. For more information go to:
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