February 11, 2005

Bull Trout Comment Period extended for 90 Days

Delegation says extra time is critical for stakeholders to review proposal adequately

WASHINGTON, DC â?? Idaho Senators Larry Craig and Mike Crapo, Representatives Mike Simpson and C.L. â??Butchâ?? Otter, and Governor Dirk Kempthorne, praised the announcement late yesterday by the U.S. Fish Wildlife Service (USFWS) extending the comment period for the USFWSâ??s proposal to designate critical habitat for Columbia River Basin bull trout for ninety days. The proposal would affect 8,958 miles of streams and 205,639 acres of lakes and reservoirs in the State of Idaho. â??Thanks to this decision by the Fish and Wildlife Service, Idaho will get the time necessary to review this extensive proposal for designating critical Bull Trout habitat in the state,â?? Governor Dirk Kempthorne said. â??We must have an opportunity to assess the economic impact of the proposals. I want to make sure that the best interests of Idaho citizens, property owners and resource managers are advanced, while at the same time we take the necessary steps to protect the Bull Trout. Idaho has made tremendous progress in habitat and species restoration already, and I want to take advantage of the time now available to us to make sure the state and federal government continue our partnership to make the best decisions for both the fish and Idaho.â?? â??It is critical that the citizens of Idaho have adequate time to comment on a proposal of this magnitude,â?? Senator Craig said. â??The implications of this proposal would not only affect 8,958 miles of stream in our state and over 200,000 miles of lakes and reservoirs, but also the livelihoods of local citizens and their access to our public lands. I thank Governor Kempthorne and the entire Idaho delegation for pushing so strenuously for this extension.â?? â??The potential for land use restrictions in the wake of determining critical habitat for bull trout is massive, cutting across Idaho from north to south and east to west,â?? Senator Crapo said. â??Certainly an action of this magnitude requires ample input from the many Idahoans affected and the extension is the right thing to do. Local input is critical in arriving at a plan that works for everyone.â?? â??I am pleased the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decided to extend the comment period for the bull trout critical habitat proposal. More time is needed to assess the possible effects of the current proposal. It is essential that Idahoans have an opportunity to express their views regarding potential impacts of designating nearly 9,000 miles of Idaho's streams as critical habitat,â?? said Congressman Mike Simpson. â??The only way Idahoans were going to get the chance to make informed comments on this proposal was for the Fish and Wildlife Service to grant the extension. This issue is too broad and the impacts are potentially too serious to be given short shrift. It's bad enough that we don't yet have an economic analysis to weigh against the habitat and species issues involved. I'm grateful to Governor Kempthorne for pursuing this extension, and I encourage as much written comment as possible from the people who will be most affected by the ultimate decision,â?? Congressman C.L. â??Butchâ?? Otter said.[30]