February 04, 2005

Idaho's Bull Trout Efforts Recognized


WASHINGTON, D.C. - Idaho Senators Larry Craig and Mike Crapo and Congressmen Mike Simpson and C.L. "Butch" Otter today hailed a new federal management plan for protected bull trout in the Northwest as well-deserved recognition of effective local recovery efforts. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plan calls for imposing use restrictions on far less "critical habitat" area for bull trout, a subspecies of char designated as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, than was proposed in November 2002 for the Columbia and Klamath river basins of Idaho, Oregon and Washington. In fact, local conservation and management efforts have been so effective in Montana that the plan includes no critical habitat designations there. Only about 1/20th as many stream miles and just over 1/10th as much lake and reservoir acreage in Idaho would be designated critical habitat for bull trout as previously was proposed. "Without the commitment of those on the ground to promote and conserve bull trout habitat, this day would never have come," Senator Craig said. "This decision is a testament to local, pro-active efforts and a prime example of the definition of critical habitat. I am encouraged to see the Bush Administration reasonably implement the ESA." Senator Crapo, who chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife and Water, said, "This decision affirms what we already know - wildlife protection already in place should not be overwritten with critical habitat rules. Both this administration and the previous one have found that critical habitat rules are poorly defined and add little to help wildlife. Much of the bull trout habitat in Idaho is already being managed more effectively through state and local efforts." "The release of the new management plan supports our long held contention that bull trout recovery efforts can be effective without placing an undue burden on ranching, recreation, and other responsible federal land uses," Congressman Simpson said. "This announcement is proof that states, along with other interested parties, have already initiated successful conservation efforts and are continually working towards re-establishing bull trout numbers." "I'm glad to see a critical habitat designation based on actual conditions on the ground, and reflecting those areas where species like bull trout actually live. For too long these designations have been about how many roadblocks could be put up to access and responsible use rather than what's reasonable and necessary to help the species," Congressman Otter said. "It's good to see a growing recognition that not all solutions, or even good ideas, come from the banks of the Potomac. Most often we find them a lot closer to home." Habitat considered critical to recovery of bull trout under the plan includes almost 1,748 miles of streams - including 306 miles in Idaho - and 61, 235 acres of lakes and reservoirs - including 27,296 acres in Idaho. The Fish and Wildlife Service originally proposed designating about 18,450 stream miles and 532,700 acres of lakes and reservoirs as critical habitat, including nearly 9,000 stream miles and 205,000 lake and reservoir acres in Idaho. More information about bull trout, critical habitat and recovery programs can be found on the Web at http://species.fws.gov/bulltrout. [30]