Lynn Kaeding (MT) 406-582-0717
Phil Carroll (OR) 503-231-6179
Tom Buckley (WA) 509-893-8029
Steve Duke (ID) 208-378-5345
Diane Katzenberger 303-236-7917 ext 408

Public Comment Period for Westslope Cutthroat Trout Status Review
Extended to February 15, 2003

Responding to requests from the fish and game departments of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana, and the Kalispel Tribe of Indians, and Earthjustice Legal Foundation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced a reopening of the public comment period concerning the new status review for the westslope cutthroat trout.

The requesting entities indicated they are assembling or awaiting important information relevant to the status of the westslope cutthroat trout and want to make such information available to the Service for use in the status review.

On April 14, 2000, the Service determined that the westslope cutthroat trout did not warrant listing as a threatened or endangered species under the Endangered Species Act. That finding, made in response to a petition received by the Service in 1997, was based on extensive information indicating westslope cutthroat trout inhabit more than 23,000 linear miles of habitat in 4,275 tributaries or streams located in 12 major drainages and 62 component watersheds in the Columbia, the Missouri and the Saskatchewan River Basins. The Service acknowledged that the number of westslope cutthroat trout had declined from historic levels, but found that viable, self-sustaining stocks remained widely distributed throughout the historic range.

On October 23, 2000, American Wildlands and four other environmental groups filed a lawsuit arguing that the Service should not have counted westslope cutthroat trout that were less than 100 percent genetically pure when the Service determined the size of the westslope cutthrout trout population. The Court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and ordered the Service to reconsider whether to list westslope cutthroat as a threatened subspecies and to more thoroughly take into account the hybridization issue when making that decision. The Court gave the Service until March 31, 2003 to complete its work.

"This extension allows the Service to comply with requests from stakeholders while increasing our opportunity to evaluate the status of the westslope based on the best scientific information available," said Ralph Morgenweck, the Service’s Director of the Mountain-Prairie Region.

Comments and materials concerning the status of the westslope cutthroat trout may be sent to: Westslope Cutthroat Comments, U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2900 4th Avenue North, Room 301, Billings, MT 59102, or submitted electronically to fw6_westslope@fws.gov. Comments must be received by February 15, 2003.

For more information about the westslope cutthroat trout, please visit our web site at http://mountain-prairie.fws.gov/endspp/fish/wct

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 nearly 540 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 70 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resource offices and 78 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 governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies. For more information about the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, visit our home page at http://www.fws.gov

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