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Posted on Friday, July 09, 2004 (PST)

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that it is extending the deadline for comments on its 5-year review of bull trout, which are protected as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act.


The 5-year review 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.


The deadline, originally set for July 1, 2004, is being extended to January 3, 2005, to allow additional time for people to submit new information that has become available since the 1999 listing.


"The purpose of a 5-year review is to ensure that the classification of a species as threatened or endangered is accurate," said Dave Allen, the USFWS' Pacific Region director.


The USFWS received multiple written requests to extend the comment deadline. Among those were requests by the states of Idaho, Montana and Washington, which have been active participants in bull trout recovery planning and implementation. The three states are undertaking a range-wide review of bull trout and plan to submit their information as part of the 5-year review.


According to the federal agency, the review will consider the best scientific and commercial data that have become available since the current listing determination, such as species biology; habitat conditions; threat status and trends; and other new information, data, or corrections including, but not limited to, taxonomic or nomenclatural changes, identification of erroneous information contained in the list, and improved analytical methods. Information submitted should be supported by documentation such as maps, bibliographic references, methods used to gather and analyze the data, and/or copies of any pertinent publications, reports or letters by knowledgeable sources.


If the USFWS finds that a change in the species' classification is warranted, the agency may separately propose to reclassify or de-list bull trout. If the agency does propose a change, it would go through a separate formal rule-making process, including public review and comment, as defined in section 4(a) of the ESA. No change in classification would occur until the completion of that process.


In January 2002, the federal agency 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.


Pending completion of the 5-year review, the Service is temporarily suspending work on the draft Recovery Plans for the Columbia River, Klamath River, and St. Mary-Belly River distinct population segments (DPS) of bull trout, which were released in November 2002. The draft Recovery Plans for the Jarbidge and Coastal-Puget Sound population segments were released this week. After the public comment period has closed for these latter two chapters, further work on them will also be suspended pending completion of the 5-year review.


Separately, bull trout critical habitat work is continuing on a revised schedule. An agreement with plaintiffs calls for a final designation of critical habitat for the Columbia and Klamath River population segments to be completed by September 2004. On June 25, 2004, the Service proposed critical habitat for the Jarbidge, St. Mary-Belly, and Coastal-Puget Sound population segments of bull trout and will accept public comment on that proposal until August 25, 2004. Final critical habitat for these population segments will be designated in June 2005.





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