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The Mountain-Prairie Region

NEWS RELEASE

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
134 Union Boulevard
Lakewood, Colorado 80228

December 30, 2002

Contact: Wade Fredenberg 406-758-6872

Public Invited to Informational Meetings Regarding the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s
Draft Recovery Plan and Proposed Critical Habitat for Bull Trout

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will conduct four public information meetings and one public hearing in Montana regarding the release of its draft recovery plan for the Clark Fork, Kootenai, and Saint Mary-Belly bull trout recovery units. A second topic is the Service proposal to designate approximately 3,319 miles of streams and 217,577 acres of lakes and reservoirs in the Clark Fork and Kootenai River drainages of northwestern Montana as critical habitat for bull trout.

The public is invited to provide official testimony at a hearing scheduled for:

January 7 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. (preceded by an informational meeting from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.) in Polson, MT, at the KwaTaqNuk Resort, 303 U. S. Highway 93.

Other informational meetings are scheduled for:

January 8 (3p.m. to 7 p.m.) in Missoula, MT at the Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks Headquarters, 3201 Spurgin Road;

January 14 (3 p.m. to 7 p.m.) in Kalispell, MT at the Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks Headquarters, 490 North Meridian Road; and

January 16 (3 p.m. to 7 p.m.) in Libby, MT at the U. S. Forest Service Building, 1101 Highway 2 West

Bull trout are protected as a threatened species, under the Federal Endangered Species Act, throughout their U.S. range, which includes parts of Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana and Nevada.

The draft recovery plan contains recommendations for recovering bull trout in the Columbia River Basin, which includes the Clark Fork and Kootenai Recovery Units, and in the Saint Mary and Belly River basins east of the continental divide.

The critical habitat proposal identifies areas that contain habitat essential for the conservation of bull trout.

The critical habitat proposal and the draft recovery plan are closely linked. Critical habitat is designed to provide for the conservation of a species habitat which may require special management considerations. A recovery plan is a much broader scientific analysis and includes a blueprint providing guidance for the recovery and eventual de-listing of a species.

The public is encouraged to provide written comments or additional information on the proposal to designate critical habitat and the draft recovery plan.

Comments on the critical habitat proposal will be accepted until January 28, 2003 and may be presented at the meetings, or 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 http://species.fws.gov/bulltrout or faxed to John Young at 503-231-6243.

Comments on the draft recovery plan will be accepted until February 27, 2003 and may be presented at the meetings or mailed to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Snake River Basin Office, Attn: Robert Ruesink, 1387 S. Vinnell Way, Room 368, Boise, ID 83709; faxed to 208-378-5262; or sent via e-mail to fw1srbocomment@fws.gov.

Bull trout are members of the char subgroup of the trout and 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 head and pale-yellow to crimson body spots on an olive green to brown background.

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.

For more information about these two proposals, please visit the Service’s web site at http://species.fws.gov/bulltrout

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

                                                                                    -FWS-


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