[Federal Register: April 5, 1999 (Volume 64, Number 64)]
[Proposed Rules]               
[Page 16397-16414]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Parts 223, 224, and 226

[Docket No. 960723205-9057-02; I.D. 121198A]
RIN 1018-AF45


Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

Endangered and Threatened Species; Threatened Status for 
Southwestern Washington/Columbia River Coastal Cutthroat Trout in 
Washington and Oregon, and Delisting of Umpqua River Cutthroat Trout in 

AGENCIES: National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic 
and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce; Fish and Wildlife 
Service (FWS), Interior.

ACTION: Proposed rule; request for comments.


SUMMARY: NMFS completed a comprehensive status review of coastal 
cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarki clarki) populations in Washington, 
Oregon, and California and has identified six Evolutionarily 
Significant Units (ESUs) within this range. Since that time, the 
question of whether NMFS or FWS (the Services, or we) has ESA 
jurisdiction over the species has arisen, and we have therefore agreed 
to resolve this matter before the final listing determination. In 
addition, the ESA requires FWS concurrence on NMFS ESA delisting 
determinations. Therefore, we are issuing this proposal jointly. We 
propose a rule to list one of the six cutthroat trout ESUs as 
threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The proposed ESU 
consists of coastal cutthroat trout populations in southwestern 
Washington and the Columbia River, excluding the Willamette River above 
Willamette Falls. We also propose to delist the Umpqua River cutthroat 
trout ESU currently listed as endangered. Information made available 
since that listing indicates Umpqua River cutthroat trout are part of a 
larger ESU

[[Page 16398]]

encompassing the coast of Oregon between the Columbia River and Cape 
Blanco, Oregon, and that this ESU does not warrant listing at this 
time. NMFS considers this ESU a candidate for listing.

    In the proposed ESU, only naturally spawned cutthroat trout are 
proposed for listing. Prior to the final listing determination, we will 
examine the relationship between hatchery and naturally spawned 
populations of cutthroat trout, and populations of cutthroat trout 
above barriers to assess whether any of these populations warrant 
listing. This may result in the inclusion of specific hatchery 
populations or populations above barriers as part of the listed ESU in 
the final listing determination.

    The Services request public comments on the biological issues 
pertaining to this proposed rule. We also request information on the 
biological, economic, and any other information relevant to designating 
critical habitat for the proposed cutthroat trout ESU. We further 
request suggestions and comments on integrated local/state/tribal/
Federal conservation measures that will achieve the purposes of the ESA 

to recover the health of coastal cutthroat trout populations and the 
ecosystems upon which they depend. We believe these efforts, if 
successful, could serve as central components of a broadly based 
conservation program for recovery and rebuilding of salmonid 
populations, including coastal cutthroat trout.

DATES: Comments must be received by July 6, 1999. NMFS will announce 
the dates and locations of public hearings in Washington and Oregon in 
a separate Federal Register document. Requests for additional public 
hearings must be received by May 20, 1999.

ADDRESSES: Comments on this proposed rule and requests for public 
hearings or reference materials should be sent to Chief, Protected 
Resources Division, NMFS, Northwest Region, 525 NE Oregon Street, Suite 
500, Portland, OR 97232-2737; fax (503) 230-5435.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Garth Griffin, 503-231-2005, Craig 
Wingert, 562-980-4021, or Christopher Mobley, 301-713-1401 of NMFS, or 
Catrina Martin, 503-231-6131 of FWS.


Electronic Access

    Reference materials regarding this listing determination can also 
be obtained from the internet at www.nwr.noaa.gov.


    In a document dated September 12, 1994, NMFS announced its intent 
to conduct comprehensive status reviews for five species of Pacific 
salmonids, including sea-run cutthroat trout (59 FR 46808). These were 
in addition to two ongoing status reviews for west coast coho salmon 
(O. kisutch) and steelhead (O. mykiss). NMFS completed coastwide status 
reviews for coho salmon and steelhead on July 25, 1995, and August 9, 
1996, respectively (60 FR 38011; 61 FR 41541). On October 4, 1995, NMFS 
completed its status review for west coast pink salmon (O. gorbuscha) 
(60 FR 51928). In March of 1998, NMFS completed its status reviews for 
west coast sockeye (O. nerka), chum (O. keta), and chinook salmon (O. 
tshawytscha) (63 FR 11750; 63 FR 11774; 63 FR 11482). Thus, the current 
status review for coastal cutthroat trout completes NMFS' comprehensive 
assessment of seven Pacific salmonid stocks under its ESA jurisdiction 
(coho, pink, sockeye, chum, and chinook salmon; and steelhead and 
cutthroat trout).

    On December 18, 1997, the Secretary of Commerce received a petition 
from Oregon Natural Resources Council to list and to designate critical 
habitat for sea-run cutthroat trout in the States of Washington, 
Oregon, and California. Copies of this petition are available upon 
request (see ADDRESSES). On March 23, 1998, NMFS accepted this petition 
as containing substantial scientific information indicating that a 
status review was warranted (63 FR 13832). Acceptance of this petition 
invoked the ESA's statutory requirement for NMFS to issue its findings 
on the coastal cutthroat trout status review by December 18, 1998.

    In response to a petition to list Umpqua River cutthroat trout 
under the ESA, on July 8, 1994 (59 FR 35089), NMFS published a proposed 
rule to list this ESU, or distinct population (See ``Consideration as a 
`Species' Under the ESA''), as an endangered species. In this notice, 
NMFS proposed to include all cutthroat trout life-history types (i.e., 
non-migratory, freshwater migratory, and anadromous) in the listed ESU. 
On August 9, 1996 (61 FR 41514), NMFS published a final rule listing 
Umpqua River coastal cutthroat trout as an endangered species. However, 
in doing so, NMFS committed to re-evaluate the status of the species 
within 2 years or as new scientific information became available. The 
Services re-evaluate the status of Umpqua River cutthroat in this 

    On January 29, 1998, Douglas County, Oregon sued the Secretary of 
Commerce, alleging that NMFS' listing of Umpqua River cutthroat trout 
as an endangered species was not based on the ``best scientific and 
commercial data available'' in violation of the ESA. On December 14, 
1998, the District Court of Oregon upheld NMFS' listing determination, 
noting that NMFS' ongoing status review of the species provides Douglas 
County and other parties with an opportunity to submit new information 
for NMFS' consideration. Douglas County v. Daley, No. 98-6024-HO, slip 
op. at n. 13 (D. OR. Dec. 14, 1998). NMFS considers new information 
submitted by Douglas County and other parties below.

    During the status review process NMFS initiated a series of 
technical meetings with comanagers (state and tribal governments) and 
the public. Among these meetings was a series of Pacific Salmon 
Biological Technical Committee meetings held in Washington, Oregon, and 
California. Furthermore, on October 13, 1998, NMFS Biological Review 
Team (BRT) members met with comanagers and discussed their comments on 
a draft status review report. The BRT considered these comments in 
drafting their final status review report. Copies of the final status 
review document entitled ``Scientific Conclusions of the Review of the 
Status of Coastal Cutthroat Trout (Oncorhynchus clarki clarki) from 
Washington, Oregon, and California'' (NMFS, 1998a) are available upon 
request (see ADDRESSES).

Agency Jurisdiction for Cutthroat Trout

    As described above, NMFS has a history of conducting status reviews 
on sea-run cutthroat trout. During the status review for Umpqua River 
sea-run cutthroat trout, NMFS and FWS agreed that NMFS would handle ESA 
responsibilities for all life forms of the species in the Umpqua River 
Basin (FWS, 1994). Since that time, the issue of agency jurisdiction 
has arisen for the various cutthroat life forms in other west coast 
basins, including the Southwestern Washington/Columbia River cutthroat 
trout ESU. For this reason, the current proposal to list the 
Southwestern Washington/Columbia River cutthroat trout ESU is being 
promulgated jointly. Prior to the final listing determination, one 
agency will assume lead ESA responsibility for the species.

[[Page 16399]]

Data Limitations and Scientific Uncertainty

    There is a lack of quantitative information across the range of 
coastal cutthroat trout. This is not to say that information about 
coastal cutthroat trout does not exist; in fact, a considerable amount 
is known about the biology of this species. However, much of this 
information is qualitative or descriptive, rather than quantitative. 
Comprehensive, coastwide data sets on distribution, abundance, age 
structure, run timing, and other biological characteristics are largely 
absent for coastal cutthroat trout. The fact that coastal cutthroat 
trout do not constitute a commercially caught species, with fewer 
directed fisheries than for co-occurring Pacific salmonids, no doubt 
has much to do with the paucity of these data. Furthermore, spawning 
coastal cutthroat trout are more difficult to observe than spawning 
salmon, and there are almost no large runs that are clear targets for 
systematic monitoring.

    Given the paucity of available data for coastal cutthroat trout, 
NMFS employed two methods to characterize uncertainty in its risk 
assessments. Both methods entailed characterizing BRT members' degree 
of certainty with particular risk conclusions. These methods generally 
led to consistent results, and the BRT used this information to draw 
its conclusions regarding the status of ESUs and then to characterize 
the degree of certainty associated with such scientific conclusions.

Life History of the Species

    The life history of coastal cutthroat trout may be one of the most 
complex of any Pacific salmonid. Unlike other anadromous salmonids, 
sea-run forms of coastal cutthroat trout do not overwinter in the ocean 
and only rarely make extended migrations across large bodies of water. 
Their migrations in the marine environment are usually within 10 
kilometers (6 miles) of land (Giger, 1972; Sumner, 1972; Jones, 1976; 
and Johnston, 1982), but have been detected up to 80 kilometers (50 
miles) offshore (Pearcy, 1997). Although most anadromous cutthroat 
trout enter seawater as 2-or 3-year-old fish, some may remain in fresh 
water up to 5 years before entering the sea (Giger, 1972; and Sumner, 
1972). Other cutthroat trout may not outmigrate to the ocean, but 
remain as nonmigrants in small headwater tributaries. Still other 
cutthroat trout may migrate entirely within freshwater environments 
(Nicholas, 1978; Tommasson, 1978; and Moring et al., 1986), even when 
they have access to the ocean (Tomasson, 1978). In the Umpqua River, 
anadromous, non-migratory, and freshwater migratory (river-migrating) 
life-history forms have been reported (Loomis and Anglin, 1992; and 
Loomis et al., 1993). Details of coastal cutthroat trout life history 
and ecology, including characteristics of particular life-history 
forms, can be found in published reviews by Hall (1997), Bisson (1997), 
and Gresswell and Harding (1997). Unfortunately, these reviews indicate 
that the genetic and environmental factors determining these life-
history forms are poorly understood, a situation that has complicated 
the characterization of ESU boundaries and risk for coastal cutthroat 

Consideration as a ``Species'' Under the ESA

    To qualify for listing as a threatened or endangered species, the 
identified populations of coastal cutthroat trout must constitute 
``species'' under the ESA. The ESA defines a ``species'' to include 
``any subspecies of fish or wildlife or plants, and any distinct 
population segment of any species of vertebrate fish or wildlife which 
interbreeds when mature.'' [ESA Section 3(15)] NMFS published a policy 
describing the agency's application of the ESA definition of 
``species'' to anadromous Pacific salmonid species (56 FR 58612, 
November 20, 1991). Subsequently, the Services jointly issued a policy 
addressing the recognition of distinct vertebrate population segments 
of all vertebrate species under the ESA on February 7, 1996 (61 FR 
4722). NMFS' policy provides that a Pacific salmonid population will be 
considered distinct and, hence, a species under the ESA if it 
represents an ESU of the biological species. A population must satisfy 
two criteria to be considered an ESU: (1) It must be reproductively 
isolated from other conspecific population units (i.e., different 
populations of the same species), and (2) it must represent an 
important component in the evolutionary legacy of the biological 
species. The first criterion, reproductive isolation, need not be 
absolute, but must be strong enough to permit evolutionarily important 
differences to accrue in different population units. The second 
criterion is met if the population contributes substantially to the 
ecological/genetic diversity of the species as a whole. Guidance on the 
application of this policy is contained in a NOAA Technical Memorandum 
entitled ``Definition of Species Under the Endangered Species Act: 
Application to Pacific Salmon,'' that is available upon request (see 

Reproductive Isolation

    Genetic data provide useful indirect evidence on reproductive 
isolation by integrating information about migration and gene flow over 
evolutionary time frames. However, only a limited number of studies of 
the genetic population structure of coastal cutthroat trout populations 
in the Pacific Northwest have been published, and these are very 
recent. Other studies are contained in unpublished graduate theses. All 
but one of these studies included samples from a limited geographic 

    In order to address this genetic data gap, NMFS, the Washington 
Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), and the Oregon Department of 
Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) recently conducted a coastwide study of 
biochemical genetic variability in coastal cutthroat trout to help 
delineate groups of populations for management and conservation. The 
results of this study are summarized in this document under ``Summary 
of Proposed ESU Determinations'' and are discussed in further detail in 
the status review document (NMFS, 1998a).

    Few detailed studies have explored the relationship between non-
migratory, freshwater migratory, and anadromous O. clarki clarki in the 
same river basin, cohabitating in the same location. The few existing 
studies of cutthroat trout show that, although both allele frequencies 
and morphology may differ between populations above barriers and 
populations below barriers with access to the sea, these different 
life-history forms are generally more closely related within a drainage 
than are populations from different drainages. These results indicate 
that sea-run and non-migratory populations of cutthroat trout represent 
a single evolutionary lineage in which the various life-history 
characteristics have arisen repeatedly in different geographic regions.

    With respect to barriers that permit some one-way migration (i.e., 
downstream migration of smolts but not upstream passage of adults), 
NMFS concludes that coastal cutthroat trout above these barriers should 
generally be included in ESUs that contain populations below these 
barriers. The basis for this conclusion is twofold: (1) Populations 
above barriers may contribute demographically and genetically to 
populations below them, even if the number of successful one-way 
migrants per generation is low, and (2) populations above barriers may 
represent genetic resources shared by populations below these barriers 

[[Page 16400]]

therefore may constitute a significant component of diversity for an 
ESU). However, at this time NMFS has not attempted to identify any 
specific populations above barriers where one-way migration is 
occurring to a significant extent. Therefore, while such populations 
are considered part of the biological ESU to which they contribute, 
NMFS (or the FWS) will determine on a case-by-case basis whether such 
populations warrant protection under the ESA. Populations of coastal 
cutthroat trout existing above Willamette Falls in Oregon are an 
exception to this general rule; this situation and the rationale for 
this determination are discussed in the following section.

Summary of Proposed ESU Determinations

    NMFS' ESU determinations for coastal cutthroat trout in Washington, 
Oregon, and California are summarized here. A more detailed discussion 
of ESU determinations is presented in the ``Scientific Conclusions of 
the Review of the Status of Coastal cutthroat (Oncorhynchus clarki 
clarki) trout from Washington, Oregon, and California'' (NMFS, 1998a). 
Copies of this document are available upon request (see ADDRESSES).

(1) Puget Sound ESU

    This proposed ESU includes populations of coastal cutthroat trout 
from drainages of Puget Sound, Hood Canal, the eastern Olympic 
Peninsula (east of and including the Elwha River), and the Strait of 
Juan de Fuca. Life-history data indicate that coastal cutthroat trout 
from Puget Sound generally smolt at a smaller size and possibly at a 
younger age than those directly entering the open ocean or the outer 
coastal marine waters. Genetic data also indicate differences among 
populations in this ESU and those in southwestern Washington and 
farther south. Genetic data also indicate that, although populations in 
Puget Sound, Hood Canal, and on the Olympic Peninsula are highly 
heterogeneous genetically, evidence exists for separation of 
populations on the Olympic Peninsula from those in the eastern Strait 
of Juan de Fuca, northern Puget Sound, and Hood Canal. Populations in 
Hood Canal and along the Strait of Juan de Fuca are distinctive, but 
show no clear evidence of a transition zone between populations in 
Puget Sound and southwestern Washington. Populations from the upper 
Nisqually River (a heavily glacially influenced system in southern 
Puget Sound) are markedly distinct genetically from their nearest 
geographic neighbors. NMFS was unable to ascertain the source of this 
distinctiveness; possibilities include strong and long-standing 
reproductive isolation, sharp habitat differences, or a combination of 
these factors.

    Based on distinctive life-history, genetic, and biogeographic 
patterns, NMFS concludes that the Puget Sound ESU includes all streams 
in Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca west to, and including, 
the Elwha River. The northern boundary for this ESU is unclear, but 
genetic data lend support to the hypothesis that this ESU extends into 
southern British Columbia, including populations along the eastern 
Georgia Strait north of the city of Vancouver. These data also indicate 
that Vancouver Island populations are genetically distinct from those 
on the mainland, providing evidence for reproductive isolation of these 
groups. In general, this ESU's boundaries reflect an ecoregion in which 
river drainages have relatively high flows due largely to high 
precipitation, snow melt, and temperatures moderated by the marine 
environment. The southern and western boundaries are similar to those 
previously identified for chinook, coho, chum, and pink salmon, and 
steelhead; the northern boundary differs from that for chinook and coho 
salmon (which does not extend into Canada) and for pink, chum, and coho 
salmon (which does not include eastern Vancouver Island).

(2) Olympic Peninsula ESU

    The proposed boundaries of this ESU are similar to those of 
steelhead and coho salmon, previously reviewed by NMFS (Busby et al., 
1996; and Weitkamp et al., 1996) and include coastal cutthroat trout 
populations from the Strait of Juan de Fuca west of the Elwha River and 
coastal streams south to, but not including, streams that drain into 
Grays Harbor. Support for this ESU relies on the ecological 
distinctiveness of this area, which is characterized by high 
precipitation, cool water temperatures, and relatively short, high-
gradient streams entering directly into the open ocean. Life-history 
data also suggest that these fish may have different migratory patterns 
than those in Puget Sound or the Columbia River. Coastal cutthroat 
trout from this area are relatively large as smolts, and a higher 
proportion of individuals appear to mature at first return from 
seawater than is the case in most Puget Sound populations.

    Genetic data for this ESU are limited. Populations that have been 
sampled from the Olympic Peninsula are genetically distinctive but show 
a stronger genetic affinity to neighboring populations in Puget Sound 
and in Hood Canal than to those along the Strait of Juan de Fuca (east 
of the Elwha River). However, at least some of the Olympic Peninsula 
populations are not strongly differentiated from those in northern or 
southern Puget Sound, and they are well differentiated from populations 
to the south along the coast. Available information indicates that this 
ESU may represent a genetic transition zone between the Puget Sound and 
Southwestern Washington/Columbia River ESUs.

(3) Southwestern Washington/Columbia River ESU

    The proposed boundaries of this ESU are similar to those of the 
lower Columbia River/southwest Washington Coast coho salmon ESU 
(Weitkamp et al., 1996). The ESU comprises cutthroat trout in the 
Columbia River and its tributaries downstream from the Klickitat River 
in Washington and Fifteenmile Creek in Oregon (inclusive) and the 
Willamette River and its tributaries downstream from Willamette Falls. 
The ESU also includes cutthroat trout in Washington coastal drainages 
from the Columbia River to Grays Harbor (inclusive). Support for these 
ESU boundaries comes primarily from ecological and genetic information. 
Ecological characteristics of this region include the presence of 
extensive intertidal mud and sandflats, similarities in freshwater and 
estuarine fish faunas, and differences from estuaries to the north of 
Grays Harbor and to the south of the Columbia River. Genetic samples 
from coastal cutthroat in southwestern Washington also show a 
relatively close genetic affinity to the samples from the Columbia 

    Some data support a split of the Columbia River from southwestern 
Washington coastal cutthroat trout populations. Tagging and recovery 
data for chinook, coho, and chum salmon indicate different marine 
distributions for fish from the two areas. The limited dispersal 
ability of anadromous cutthroat trout may restrict genetic exchange 
among populations in the two areas, and the areas exhibit differences 
in their physical estuarine characteristics. An important salmonid 
parasite, Ceratomyxa shasta, occurs in the Columbia River but has not 
been observed in Willapa Bay or Grays Harbor. WDFW has conducted an 
unpublished analysis of a small number

[[Page 16401]]

of southwestern Washington populations in which it detected a greater 
differentiation of populations between this ESU and those in the 
Columbia River than did NMFS in its more comprehensive analysis. WDFW 
also argues that extensive hatchery influence in some populations may 
have obscured natural genetic differences between southwestern 
Washington and lower Columbia River coastal cutthroat trout. However, 
NMFS concludes that these analyses collectively do not provide 
compelling evidence for separate coastal cutthroat trout ESUs for the 
southwestern Washington coast and the Columbia River.

(4) Upper Willamette River ESU

    This proposed ESU includes populations of cutthroat trout above 
Willamette Falls in Oregon. Coastal cutthroat trout, along with spring 
chinook salmon and winter steelhead, are the only three species of 
anadromous Pacific salmonids that historically occurred above 
Willamette Falls. In the Upper Willamette River, these other two 
species have been identified as separate ESUs in previous status 
reviews, based on ecological and genetic differences from other 
Columbia River populations, and on physical and hydrological conditions 
(Busby et al., 1996; and Myers et al., 1998). Based on information 
provided by ODFW (1998), Willamette Falls is a nearly complete barrier 
to anadromous fish, including summer steelhead and coastal cutthroat 
trout, during summer and early fall. NMFS concludes that the upper 
Willamette River has probably never supported a substantial anadromous 
population of cutthroat trout; the primary life-history types that 
exist above Willamette Falls appear to be the non-migratory and 
freshwater migratory forms, which appear to be relatively rare below 
the falls.

    Upper Willamette River coastal cutthroat trout exhibit a genetic 
structure consistent with the hypothesis that Willamette Falls is a 
strong reproductive barrier between populations above and below the 
falls. C. shasta existing in the Willamette River below the Marys River 
and high temperatures in the lower Willamette River in summer and fall 
probably limit the survival of the very few migrants that are known to 
drop over the falls. The river above Willamette Falls encompasses a 
large area with considerable habitat complexity, and this area supports 
several different populations of coastal cutthroat trout. Although 
these populations are highly heterogeneous (dissimilar) genetically, 
they do form a moderately coherent cluster of apparently isolated and 
semi-isolated populations.

    The physical and genetic evidence for: (1) a barrier at Willamette 
Falls; (2) habitat and ecological differences above and below the 
Falls; (3) the lack of anadromous populations and the prevalence of 
freshwater migratory forms above the Falls; and (4) evidence for very 
few smolt outmigrants produced above the Falls leads NMFS to conclude 
that coastal cutthroat trout above Willamette Falls should be 
considered a separate ESU. Since cutthroat trout in this region do not 
conduct extensive migrations and remain primarily in the freshwater 
environment, The Services conclude that cutthroat trout in this ESU 
fall under the jurisdiction of FWS. As previously noted, overall ESA 
jurisdiction of all coastal cutthroat trout ESUs remains to be 

(5) Oregon Coast ESU

    The proposed boundaries of this ESU are similar to those identified 
for coho and chinook salmon and steelhead (Weitkamp et al., 1996; Myers 
et al., 1998; and Busby et al., 1996) and include coastal cutthroat 
trout populations from the mouth of the Columbia River south to Cape 
Blanco, Oregon. Genetic data indicate marked differences between 
coastal cutthroat trout populations from coastal Oregon and those in 
the Columbia River and along the Washington coast. Samples of coastal 
cutthroat trout south of the Columbia River indicate a large, 
heterogeneous group of populations along the Oregon coast. Furthermore, 
several ecological differences exist between rivers along the Oregon 
coast and those farther north. The Oregon coast is characterized by a 
strong maritime influence, including relatively high precipitation, 
moderate temperatures, and short, low gradient streams with few 
migration barriers. Tagging studies in Alaska and elsewhere indicate 
that anadromous cutthroat trout follow shorelines when in seawater; 
thus, the known migratory patterns of this species are consistent with 
the hypothesis that the Columbia River, which is several miles wide and 
relatively deep at its mouth, is a migratory barrier between coastal 
populations in Oregon and those in Washington.

    Although genetic data provide some evidence for a split between 
populations north or south of Cape Blanco, Oregon, biological and 
ecological data provide even greater support for such a split. The Cape 
Blanco area is a major biogeographic boundary for many marine and 
terrestrial species, and has been identified as an ESU boundary for 
chinook and coho salmon and steelhead on the basis of strong genetic, 
life-history, ecological, and habitat differences north and south of 
this landmark. Meristic data (measurements of physical characteristics) 
also point to a difference between coastal cutthroat trout populations 
north and south of Cape Blanco.

    Previously, NMFS concluded that cutthroat trout in the Umpqua River 
Basin constituted an ESU (Johnson et al., 1994; 61 FR 41514, August 9, 
1996). However, new genetic information collected during the coastwide 
status review indicates that cutthroat trout populations in the Umpqua 
River Basin are part of a larger coastal ESU that includes populations 
in Oregon coastal drainages from the mouth of the Columbia River to 
Cape Blanco. As discussed later in this document, NMFS proposes to 
revise the Umpqua River cutthroat trout listing determination 
consistent with these findings (see ``Proposed Determinations'').

(6) Southern Oregon/California Coasts ESU

    This proposed ESU includes populations of coastal cutthroat trout 
from Cape Blanco, Oregon, south to the southern extent of the 
subspecies' range, currently considered the Mattole River, south of 
Cape Mendocino, California. Although meristic information lends support 
for a separate ESU of coastal cutthroat trout populations south of Cape 
Blanco, genetic and ecological data do not strongly support such a 
conclusion. In addition, the limited dispersal capability of coastal 
cutthroat trout and anecdotal evidence for marked differences in 
population dynamics for populations north and south of Cape Blanco 
support a split at that landmark. Finally, the majority of river 
systems in this ESU are relatively small and steep, with limited 
estuaries, and are heavily influenced by a maritime climate. Many of 
these systems are characterized by seasonal physical and thermal 
barriers to movement by anadromous fish; notable exceptions without 
such barriers are the larger river basins such as the Eel, Klamath, and 
Rogue Rivers.

Summary of Factors Affecting the Species

    Section 2(a)(1) of the ESA states that various species of fish, 
wildlife, and plants in the United States have been rendered extinct as 
a consequence of economic growth and development untempered by adequate 
concern and

[[Page 16402]]

conservation. Section 4(a)(1) of the ESA and the Services' regulations 
(50 CFR part 424) set forth procedures for listing species. The 
Secretaries of Commerce and the Interior (Secretaries) must determine, 
through the regulatory process, if a species is endangered or 
threatened based upon any one or a combination of the following 
factors: (1) The present or threatened destruction, modification, or 
curtailment of its habitat or range; (2) overutilization for 
commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes; (3) 
disease or predation; (4) inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; 
or (5) other natural or human-made factors affecting its continued 

    Several recent documents describe in more detail the impacts of 
various factors contributing to the decline of cutthroat trout and 
other salmonids (Bryant and Lynch, 1996; NMFS, 1997; and NMFS, 1998b). 
These reports, available upon request (see ADDRESSES), conclude that 
all of the factors identified in section 4(a)(1) of the ESA have played 
a role in the decline of salmonids on the West Coast. Specifically, 
these reports identify destruction and modification of habitat, 
overutilization for recreational purposes, and natural and human-made 
factors as being the primary reasons for the decline of anadromous 
salmonids, including coastal cutthroat trout. The following discussion 
summarizes findings regarding the principle factors for decline across 
the range of coastal cutthroat trout.

A. The Present or Threatened Destruction, Modification, or Curtailment 
of its Habitat or Range

    Habitat degradation and impacts associated with logging and related 
land management activities, in particular, have likely contributed to 

the decline of coastal cutthroat trout. Removal of forest canopy can 
cause an increase in both the maximum and the diurnal fluctuation of 
water temperatures, leading to disease outbreaks, altered timing of 
migration, and accelerated maturation. The removal of streamside 
vegetation can deplete the bank area of potential new woody debris, 
which provides cover for cutthroat trout. Lack of cover may increase 
predation rates on cutthroat trout. In addition, loss of riparian areas 
can result in decreased invertebrate production and detritus sources, 
both of which are key components of the species' food chain. Siltation, 
often caused by certain logging practices, may hinder fry emergence 
from the gravel and limit production of benthic invertebrates. 
Dissolved oxygen content of both surface and intragravel water can 
decrease as a result of logging operations, reducing egg and fry 
survival rates. Logging can also cause changes in stream flow regimes, 
resulting in potentially adverse water velocity and depth 

    In addition to degradation of freshwater habitats, degradation of 
estuarine habitats has likely contributed to the decline of this 
species. Estuarine areas are highly productive habitats and play an 
important role in the life cycle of cutthroat trout (Hall, 1997). 
Dredging, filling, and diking of estuarine areas for agricultural, 
commercial, or municipal uses have resulted in the loss of many 
estuarine habitats.

B. Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, Scientific, or 
Educational Purposes

    Cutthroat trout are not harvested commercially, and scientific and 
educational programs have probably had little or no impact on these 
populations. However, cutthroat trout are a popular gamefish throughout 
the Pacific Northwest, and available information indicates that 
recreational fishing may have contributed to the general decline of 
cutthroat trout populations (Gresswell and Harding, 1997). In addition, 
coastal cutthroat trout are especially susceptible to hooking mortality 
and incidental catch in recreational and commercial fisheries targeting 
Pacific salmon and steelhead. Also, poaching may pose a significant 
threat to depressed populations of cutthroat trout in some areas.

C. Disease or Predation

    Disease may be a factor contributing to the decline of cutthroat 
trout populations. For example, ODFW believes that C. shasta is a 
factor of decline for cutthroat trout populations in the Columbia and 
Willamette Rivers (ODFW, 1998). The extent to which this and other 
diseases affect cutthroat trout populations in other areas is unknown.

    Several non-native fish species are known to prey on or compete 
with salmonids; however, no specific information exists regarding 
predation impacts by these or by native fishes on cutthroat trout. 
Pinnipeds, especially harbor seals and California sea lions, are 
increasing on the West Coast. However, the extent to which pinniped 
predation is a factor causing the decline of coastal cutthroat trout is 

D. Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms

1. Federal Land Management Practices

    The Northwest Forest Plan (NFP) is a Federal management policy with 
important benefits for salmonids, including cutthroat trout. While the 
NFP covers a very large area, the overall effectiveness of the NFP in 
conserving cutthroat trout is limited by the extent of Federal lands 
and by the fact that Federal land ownership is not uniformly 
distributed in watersheds within the affected ESUs. The extent and 
distribution of Federal lands limits the NFP's ability to achieve its 
aquatic habitat restoration objectives at watershed and river basin 
scales and highlights the importance of complementary salmon habitat 
conservation measures on non-Federal lands within the subject ESUs.
2. State Land Management Practices

    The Washington Department of Natural Resources implements and 
enforces the State of Washington's forest practice rules (WFPRs) that 
are promulgated through the Forest Practices Board. These WFPRs contain 
provisions that can be protective of salmonids if fully implemented. 
WFPRs are based on adaptive management of forest lands through 
watershed analysis, development of site-specific land management 
prescriptions, and monitoring. Watershed Analysis prescriptions can 
exceed WFPR minima for stream and riparian protection.

    However, NMFS believes the WFPRs, including watershed analysis, do 
not provide properly functioning riparian and instream habitats. 
Specifically, the base WFPRs do not adequately address large woody 
debris (LWD) recruitment, tree retention to maintain stream bank 
integrity and channel networks within floodplains, and chronic and 
episodic inputs of coarse and fine sediment-processes which are 
critical to maintaining properly functioning habitat for all life 
stages of cutthroat trout.

    Similarly, the Oregon Forest Practices Act (OFPA), while modified 
in 1995 and improved over the previous OFPA, does not adequately 
protect salmonid habitat. In particular, the current OFPA does not 
provide adequate protection for the production and introduction of LWD 
to medium, small, and non-fish bearing streams. Small non-fish bearing 
streams are vitally important to the quality of downstream habitats. 
These streams carry water, sediment, nutrients, and LWD from upper 
portions of the watershed. The quality of downstream

[[Page 16403]]

habitats is determined, in part, by the timing and amount of organic 
and inorganic materials provided by these small streams (Chamberlin et 
al., in Meehan, 1991). Given the existing depleted condition of most 
riparian forests on non-Federal lands, the time needed to attain mature 
forest conditions, the lack of adequate protection for non-riparian LWD 
sources in landslide-prone areas and small headwater streams (which 
account for about half the wood found naturally in stream channels) 
(Burnett and Reeves, 1997, citing Van Sickle and Gregory, 1990; McDade 
et al., 1990; and McGreary, 1994), and current rotation schedules 
(approximately 50 years), there is a low probability that adequate LWD 
recruitment could be achieved under the current requirements of the 
OFPA. Also, the OFPA neither adequately manages timber harvest and road 
construction on sensitive, unstable slopes subject to mass wasting; nor 
does it address cumulative effects.
3. Dredge, Fill, and Inwater Construction Programs

    The Army Corps of Engineers (COE) regulates removal/fill activities 
under section 404 of the Clean Water Act (CWA), which requires that the 
COE not permit a discharge that would ``cause or contribute to 
significant degradation of the waters of the United States.'' One of 
the factors that must be considered in this determination is cumulative 
effects. However, the COE guidelines do not specify a methodology for 
assessing cumulative impacts or how much weight to assign them in 
decision-making. Furthermore, the COE does not have in place any 
process to address the additive effects of the continued development of 
waterfront, riverine, coastal, and wetland properties.
4. Water Quality Programs

    The Federal CWA is intended to protect beneficial uses, including 
fishery resources. To date, implementation has not been effective in 
adequately protecting fishery resources, particularly with respect to 
non-point sources of pollution.

    Sections 303(d)(1)(C) and (D) of the CWA requires states to prepare 
Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) for all water bodies that do not meet 
state water quality standards. TMDLs are a method for quantitatively 
assessing environmental problems in a watershed and identifying 
pollution reductions needed to protect drinking water, aquatic life, 
recreation, and other use of rivers, lakes, and streams. TMDLs may 
address all pollution sources, including such point sources as sewage 
or industrial plant discharges, and such non-point discharges as runoff 
from roads, farm fields, and forests.

    The CWA gives state governments the primary responsibility for 
establishing TMDLs. However, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 
is required to establish TMDLs if a state does not do so. State 
agencies in Oregon are committed to completing TMDLs for coastal 
drainages within 4 years, and all impaired waters within 10 years. 
Similarly ambitious schedules are in place, or are being developed for 
Washington and Idaho. The ability of these TMDLs to protect cutthroat 
trout and salmonids should be significant in the long term; however, it 
will be difficult to develop them quickly in the short term, and their 
efficacy in protecting salmonid habitat will be unknown for years to 
5. Hatchery and Harvest Management

    In an attempt to mitigate the loss of habitat, hatchery programs 
have been implemented throughout the range of coastal cutthroat trout. 
While some of these programs have succeeded in providing fishing 
opportunities, the impacts of these programs on native, naturally 
spawned stocks are not well understood. Competition, genetic 
introgression, and disease transmission resulting from hatchery 
introductions may significantly reduce the production and survival of 
native, naturally spawned cutthroat trout.

    Historically, cutthroat trout were one of the most broadly 
distributed salmonids in western North America (Behnke, 1979 and 1992). 
They were often the only salmonid present (sometimes the only fish) in 
many lakes and streams throughout the interior American west, and they 
were far more broadly distributed than steelhead, rainbow trout, or 
other salmonids (Behnke, 1979 and 1992). In recent years, they have 
been replaced by rainbow trout or other introduced species in many 
parts of their range (Gresswell, 1988; and Young, 1995). Perhaps most 
destructive was the widespread release of hatchery rainbow trout (O. 
mykiss) throughout the native range of interior cutthroat trout 
(Gresswell 1988; Young 1995). The two species readily hybridize, often 
to the extreme detriment of O. clarki, and it has been estimated that 
``just within the last century perhaps 99 percent of the unique 
cutthroat strains of interior drainages have been lost forever'' 
(Willers, 1991). Furthermore, in less than 100 years after the first 
settlements in the West, cutthroat trout vanished from most of its vast 
range (Behnke, 1988). Because of this hybridization with rainbow trout, 
and because of habitat degradation and other reasons, many of these 
inland subspecies have declined in numbers to an extent that they are 
now protected by state and Federal endangered species legislation 
(Johnson, 1987).

    Other potentially important impacts of hatchery practices are the 
negative consequences of interactions between coho salmon fry released 
from hatcheries and coastal cutthroat trout. Coho salmon fry have often 
been released into streams in very high numbers, and they can compete 
with cutthroat trout for feeding and rearing habitat.

E. Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting Its Continued Existence

    Climatic conditions have exacerbated the problems associated with 
degraded and altered riverine and estuarine habitats. Persistent 
drought conditions have reduced the already limited spawning, rearing, 
and migration habitat. Climatic conditions appear to have resulted in 
decreased ocean productivity (Francis and Sibley 1991; Francis et al. 
1992), which may compound the effects of degraded freshwater habitat 
conditions on salmonid productivity.

    Hybridization between coastal cutthroat trout and O. mykiss may 
pose serious risks for this species. A recent NMFS/WDFW survey of 
genetic variation among populations indicated that hybridization was 
widespread in the Pacific Northwest. Hybridization appears to occur 
naturally in some areas where coastal cutthroat trout and O. mykiss 
overlap and may be accelerated by transplants of O. mykiss into areas 
where coastal cutthroat trout occur naturally. Hybridization can reduce 
the success of coastal cutthroat trout populations by lowering the 
genetic fitness of hybrid individuals. Hybrids appear to be 
intermediate in performance to either parental species, but some life-
history traits in hybrids may be detrimental to their survival. The 
extent of the risk of hybridization due to human activities is unknown.
Efforts Being Made To Protect Coastal Cutthroat Trout

    Section 4(b)(1)(A) of the ESA requires the Secretaries of Commerce 
and the Interior to make listing determinations solely on the basis of 
the best scientific and commercial data available and after taking into 
account efforts being made to protect the species. Therefore, in making 
listing determinations, we first

[[Page 16404]]

assess the status of the species and identify factors that have led to 
the decline of the species. We then assess existing conservation 
measures to determine if such measures sufficiently ameliorate risks to 
the species.

    In judging the efficacy of existing conservation efforts, NMFS 
considers the following: (1) The substantive, protective, and 
conservation elements of such efforts; (2) the degree of certainty such 
that efforts will be reliably implemented; and (3) the presence of 
monitoring provisions that permit adaptive management (Bryant and 
Lynch, 1996). In some cases, conservation efforts may be relatively new 
and may not have had time to demonstrate their biological benefits. In 
such cases, provisions for adequate monitoring and funding of 
conservation efforts are essential to ensure that intended conservation 
benefits are realized.

    During its coastal cutthroat trout status review, NMFS reviewed an 
array of protective efforts underway for cutthroat trout and other 
salmonids, ranging in scope from broad regional strategies to local 
watershed initiatives. NMFS has summarized some of the major efforts 
applicable to salmonids in a document entitled ``Steelhead Conservation 
Efforts: A Supplement to the Notice of Determination for West Coast 
Steelhead under the Endangered Species Act'' (NMFS, 1996). NMFS has 
identified additional conservation measures in the States of 
Washington, Oregon, and California that are not specifically addressed 
in this earlier report. We summarize these additional conservation 
measures here.

State of Washington Conservation Measures

    The State of Washington is currently in the process of developing a 
statewide strategy to protect and restore naturally spawned steelhead 
and other salmon and trout species. In May of 1997, the Governor of 
Washington and other state officials signed a Memorandum of Agreement 
creating the Joint Natural Resources Cabinet (Joint Cabinet). This body 
is composed of state agency directors or their equivalents from a wide 
variety of agencies whose activities and constituents influence 
Washington's natural resources. The goal of the Joint Cabinet is to 
restore healthy salmon, steelhead, and trout populations by improving 
those habitats on which the fish rely. The Joint Cabinet's current 
activities include development of the Lower Columbia Steelhead 
Conservation Initiative (LCSCI), which is intended to comprehensively 
address protection and recovery of steelhead in the lower Columbia 
River area.

    The scope of the LCSCI includes Washington's steelhead stocks in 
two ESUs that contain habitat in both Washington and Oregon. The 
initiative area includes the Lower Columbia River area (Cowlitz to Wind 
rivers) and portions of southwestern Washington. Although the initial 
focus of the LCSCI was on steelhead recovery, the state and local 
governments are exploring ways to expand the LCSCI into a multi-species 
recovery effort that would be consistent with Oregon's plan. When 
completed, conservation and restoration efforts in the LCSCI area will 
form a comprehensive, coordinated, and timely protection and rebuilding 
framework with benefits to steelhead and other salmonids (including 
coastal cutthroat trout) in the LCSCI area.

    WDFW performed advance work on the initiative, emphasizing harvest 
and hatchery issues and related conservation measures. Consistent with 
creation of the Joint Cabinet, conservation planning has recently been 
expanded to include major involvement by other state agencies and 
stakeholders and to address habitat and tributary dam/hydropower 

    The LCSCI should provide a framework to describe concepts, 
strategies, opportunities, and commitments that will be critically 
needed to maintain the diversity and long term productivity of 
salmonids in the lower Columbia River for future generations. The 
initiative does not represent a formal watershed planning process; 
rather, it is intended to be complementary to such processes as they 
may occur in the future. The LCSCI details a range of concerns, 
including natural production and genetic conservation, recreational 
harvest, hatchery strategies, habitat protection and restoration goals, 
monitoring of stock status and habitat health, evaluation of the 
effectiveness of specific conservation actions, and an adaptive 
management structure to implement and modify the plan's trajectory as 
time progresses. It also addresses improved enforcement of habitat and 
fishery regulations and strategies for outreach and education.

    The LCSCI is currently a ``work-in-progress'' and will evolve and 
change over time as new information becomes available. Input will be 
obtained through continuing outreach efforts by local governments and 
other stakeholders. Further refinements to strategies, actions, and 
commitments will occur using public and stakeholder review and input 
and continued interaction with the State of Oregon, tribes, and other 
government entities, including NMFS. The LCSCI will be subjected to 
independent technical review. In sum, these input and coordination 
processes will play a key role in determining the extent to which the 
eventual conservation package will benefit naturally spawned salmonids.

    NMFS intends to continue working with the State of Washington and 
stakeholders involved in the formulation of the LCSCI. Ultimately, when 
more fully developed and implemented, this conservation effort may 
ameliorate risks facing many salmonids in this region.

State of Oregon Conservation Measures

    In April 1996, the Governor of Oregon completed and submitted to 
NMFS a comprehensive conservation plan directed specifically at coho 
salmon stocks on the coast of Oregon. This plan, termed the Oregon Plan 
for Salmon and Watersheds (OPSW) (formerly known as the Oregon Coastal 
Salmon Restoration Initiative) was later expanded to include 
conservation measures for coastal steelhead stocks (Oregon, 1998). For 
a detailed description of the OPSW, refer to the May 6, 1997, listing 
determination for Southern Oregon/Northern California coho salmon (62 
FR 24602). The essential tenets of the OPSW include the following:

    1. The OPSW is comprehensive, addressing many factors for decline 
of coastal coho salmon and steelhead, most notably, those factors 
relating to harvest, habitat, and hatchery activities.

    2. Under the OPSW, all state agencies whose activities affect 
salmon are held accountable for coordinating their programs in a manner 
that conserves and restores the species and their habitat. This is 
essential since salmon and steelhead have been affected by the actions 
of many different state agencies.

    3. The OPSW includes a framework for prioritizing conservation and 
restoration efforts.

    4. The OPSW includes a comprehensive monitoring plan that 
coordinates Federal, state, and local efforts to improve our 
understanding of freshwater and marine conditions, determine 
populations trends, evaluate the effects of artificial propagation, and 
rate the OPSW's success in restoring the salmon.

    5. The OPSW recognizes that actions to conserve and restore salmon 
must be worked out by communities and landowners--those who possess 
local knowledge of problems and those who

[[Page 16405]]

have a genuine stake in the outcome. Watershed councils, soil and water 
conservation districts, and other grassroots efforts are the vehicles 
for getting this work done.

    6. The OPSW is based upon the principles of adaptive management. 
Through this process, there is an explicit mechanism for learning from 
experience, evaluating alternative approaches, and making needed 
changes in the programs and measures.

    7. The OPSW includes an Independent Multi-disciplinary Science Team 
(IMST). The IMST's purpose is to provide an independent audit of the 
OPSW's strengths and weaknesses. They will aid the adaptive management 
process by compiling new information into a yearly review of goals, 
objectives, and strategies, and by recommending changes to the OPSW.

    8. The OPSW requires that a yearly report be made to the Governor, 
the legislature, and the public. This will help the agencies make the 
adjustments described for the adaptive management process.

    As with the State of Washington's LCSCI process discussed earlier, 
NMFS intends to continue working with the State of Oregon and 
stakeholders involved in the formulation of the OPSW. Ultimately, when 
more fully developed and implemented, this conservation effort may 
ameliorate risks facing cutthroat trout and the other salmonid species 
in this region.

State of California Conservation Measures

    The July, 1997, Executive Order W-159-97 of the Governor of 
California created the Governor's Watershed Restoration and Protection 
Council (WPRC). The WPRC, chaired by the Secretary of Resources, is an 
umbrella body consisting of all state agencies that have programs 
addressing anadromous salmonid protection and restoration. Under State 
law, the WPRC is charged with (1) providing oversight of all state 
activities aimed at watershed protection and enhancement, including the 
conservation and restoration of anadromous salmonids in California; and 
(2) directing the development of a Watershed Protection Program that 
provides for anadromous salmonid conservation in the State. The WPRC 
has established a 12-member, multi-disciplinary science review panel to 
advise it in the development of the watershed protection program.

    The WPRC is currently reviewing and evaluating existing statewide 
regulatory and non-regulatory programs protecting anadromous salmonids 
and their habitat, as well as state and local restoration program 
efforts that are ongoing or proposed. A compilation of management, 
implementation, and monitoring improvements that are necessary to 
protect and conserve anadromous salmonids and their habitat will be an 
important outcome of this comprehensive review. NMFS reviewed and 
commented on early work products generated by this review process and 
will continue to participate in the review and the development of the 
watershed protection program.

    NMFS is encouraged by California initiation of a comprehensive, 
watershed-based approach to salmon management and restoration. However, 
the WPRC process is still in progress, and a Watershed Protection 
Program has yet to be developed. The 1998 Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) 
signed by NMFS, California's Secretary of Resources, and the Director 
of the California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) (NMFS/California 
MOA, 1998) ensures that NMFS will substantively participate in the 
development of this program, including participation on the scientific 
review panel that will advise the WPRC in the development of the 
Program. An important focus of this scientific review panel will be an 
assessment of the adequacy of California's forest practice regulations, 
including their implementation and enforcement.

    In 1997, the California State legislature enacted SB 271, which 
provides CDFG with $43 million over 6 years for habitat restoration and 
watershed planning in coastal watersheds. This new funding allows CDFG 
to significantly expand its existing habitat restoration program in 
coastal watersheds, including areas in Northern California. SB 271 
requires that 87.5 percent of the $43 million in funding be spent on 
project grants for habitat restoration, watershed planning, and related 
programs, and permits CDFG to use the remainder for contract 
administration activities and biological support staff necessary to 
achieve the restoration objectives of the legislation. SB 271 also 
specifies that funded projects: (1) emphasize the development of 
coordinated watershed improvement activities; (2) give highest priority 
to funding projects that restore habitat for salmon and/or steelhead 
that are eligible for protection as listed or candidate species under 
the State or Federal ESA, (3) treat causes of fish habitat degradation; 
and (4) are designed to restore the structure and function of fish 
habitat. As part of this program, CDFG is funding $7.0 million per year 
in new projects for 5 years beginning in FY 1998-99 (starting July 
1998). In addition, CDFG will use SB 271 funding to support several new 
permanent positions that will assist in administering the program and 
will provide technical support in the development of watershed plans 
and habitat restoration projects.

    NMFS has reviewed the SB 271 program and concludes that its 
implementation will benefit salmonids, including cutthroat trout, by 
promoting the development of watershed protection plans and the 
restoration of degraded habitat conditions (NMFS, 1998c). The NMFS/
California MOA provides additional assurances that the SB 271 program 
will provide these benefits. First, the MOA allows NMFS to serve as an 
ex-officio member of the Advisory Committee that will oversee 
implementation of SB 271, including the allocation of funds. Second, 
the MOA commits CDFG to direct a major portion of the new personnel and 
fiscal resources provided by SB 271 to watershed restoration efforts 
(NMFS/California MOA, 1998). Finally, the MOA establishes a close 
working relationship between the State and NMFS that should enable 
continued improvements in a variety of sectors affecting at-risk 

Proposed Status of Coastal Cutthroat Trout ESUs

    Section 3 of the ESA defines the term ``endangered species'' as 
``any species which is in danger of extinction throughout all or a 
significant portion of its range.'' The term ``threatened species'' is 
defined as ``any species which is likely to become an endangered 
species within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant 
portion of its range.'' Thompson (1991) suggested that conventional 
rules of thumb, analytical approaches, and simulations may all be 
useful in making this determination. In previous status reviews, NMFS 
identified a number of factors that should be considered in evaluating 
the level of risk faced by an ESU, including (1) absolute numbers of 
fish and their spatial and temporal distribution; (2) current abundance 
in relation to historical abundance and current carrying capacity of 
the habitat; (3) trends in abundance; (4) natural and human-influenced 
factors that cause variability in survival and abundance; (5) possible 
threats to genetic integrity (e.g., from strays or outplants from 
hatchery programs); (6) diversity of life-history forms; and (7) recent 
events (e.g., a drought or changes in harvest

[[Page 16406]]

management) that have predictable short-term consequences for abundance 
of the ESU.

    During the coastwide status review for coastal cutthroat trout, 
NMFS evaluated both quantitative and qualitative information to 
determine whether any cutthroat trout ESUs are threatened or endangered 
according to the ESA. The types of information used in these 
assessments are described in NMFS' status review document (NMFS, 
1998a). The following is a summary of NMFS' conclusions regarding the 
status of identified cutthroat trout ESUs.

(1) Puget Sound ESU

    Few data exist concerning historical and present abundance of 
coastal cutthroat trout in the Puget Sound ESU region, and almost no 
estimates of adult population sizes existed for this ESU. The 
exceptions are a WDFW estimate of the 1997 spawning escapement in the 
Skagit River Basin of 13,000 fish, and counts of cutthroat adults at an 
upstream migrant trap designed to target coho salmon on the Deschutes 
River in southern Puget Sound (5-year geometric mean = 74 coastal 
cutthroat trout). Anecdotal reports suggest low abundance of coastal 
cutthroat trout in southwestern Puget Sound streams. In general, NMFS 
remains concerned with the lack of information regarding the 
distribution and abundance of coastal cutthroat trout throughout the 
Puget Sound region. However, some data indicate that juvenile coastal 
cutthroat trout are relatively well distributed in the Skagit and 
Stillaguamish River Basins and along the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

    Few trend data are available for this ESU; these include downstream 
migrant counts from streams in eastern Hood Canal, the Skagit River 
Basin, and in southern Puget Sound (up to 1987 only); adult counts on 
the Deschutes River; and catch-per-unit effort (CPUE) data for adults 
over the past 2 to 7 years in three northern Puget Sound River Basins.

    Trends in smolt numbers were mixed in both Hood Canal and southern 
Puget Sound. Unfortunately, no information exists regarding smolt-to-
adult survival in this ESU, so interpretation of the significance of 
smolt trends for overall risk to these populations is difficult. 
Increases in coastal cutthroat trout smolt numbers in some eastern Hood 
Canal streams coincided with declines in coho salmon abundance. A 
negative correlation between the abundances of coastal cutthroat trout 
and coho salmon suggests that interspecific interactions between these 
two species may be reducing the abundance of coastal cutthroat trout in 
some streams. In those streams with reduced coho salmon numbers, it is 
possible that a relaxation of competition has occurred, allowing for an 
increase in coastal cutthroat trout abundance.

    The CPUE data for the Stillaguamish and Snohomish River populations 
showed increasing trends; the Skagit River CPUE has been declining. 
However, the short time frames (2 to 7 years) over which these data 
have been collected, and the possibility that significant declines in 
abundance occurred before data collection began, limits the usefulness 
of these trends in assessing population status. In addition, WDFW 
biologists feel that the variation in the adults caught may be due, in 
part, to annual variation in fish sampling conditions.

    In addition to information about population sizes and trends in 
abundance for coastal cutthroat trout in this ESU, NMFS considered 
another important risk factor--the potential loss of life-history 
diversity. In particular, the anadromous life-history type appears to 
be declining in some streams containing coastal cutthroat trout. 
However, NMFS concludes that risks to the integrity and long-term 
sustainability of the Puget Sound ESU due to loss of life-history 
diversity are relatively low compared to other coastal cutthroat trout 
ESUs, in which there are more streams with documented declines in 
anadromous life-history types.

    The influence of hatchery coastal cutthroat trout in the Puget 
Sound ESU is probably relatively low compared to the impacts of 
hatchery fish on the productivity of other Pacific salmonids. For 
example, the proportion of hatchery fish caught in the recreational 
fisheries for coastal cutthroat trout in Hood Canal is low indicating 
hatchery fish do not occur at significant levels in this area. On the 
other hand, there are some hatchery-related threats to naturally 
spawned coastal cutthroat trout populations in this ESU. WDFW considers 
some of the northern Puget Sound coastal cutthroat trout populations to 
be of mixed origin, indicating that fish of non-native origin may have 
contributed to the genetic composition of those populations (WDFW, 
1998). Production in most streams within the ESU is considered to be 
``wild'' (i.e., naturally spawned) by WDFW, indicating that WDFW does 
not believe that hatchery fish contribute significantly to natural 
spawning escapements (WDFW, 1998).

Listing Determination

    While in general, little information exists to assess the status of 
this ESU, NMFS concludes available scientific information indicates the 
Puget Sound ESU does not warrant listing. Population levels in this ESU 
appear relatively stable over the past 10 to 15 years, although many of 
these populations are believed to be smaller relative to historic 
levels. Implementation of the NFP has likely reduced habitat risks on 
Federal lands within this ESU, which constitute about 30 percent of the 
total land area. However, NMFS remains concerned with habitat 
conditions on non-Federal lands throughout this ESU, including highly 
urbanized areas in the City of Seattle.

(2) Olympic Peninsula ESU

    NMFS possesses little information to estimate population abundances 
for coastal cutthroat trout in the Olympic Peninsula ESU. However, 
limited trapping data support the opinions of state and tribal 

fisheries biologists that juveniles in this ESU are well distributed in 
streams along the western Strait of Juan de Fuca and northern 
Washington coast. Further, available data suggest that some highly 
productive cutthroat trout streams exist in this geographic region. For 
example, smolt abundances in Dickey Lake are high relative to numbers 
of smolts in Puget Sound and Hood Canal streams. On the other hand, 
ongoing habitat destruction, primarily due to logging and its 
associated activities (e.g., road building and stream blockages by 
culverts), continue to be a source of risk to coastal cutthroat trout 
in many Olympic Peninsula streams.

    The quantitative data available for the Olympic Peninsula ESU are 
counts of downstream migrants on Clearwater River tributaries (from 
1981 to present), Dickey River (1992-1994), Hoko River (1986-1989), and 
in Salt Creek along the Strait of Juan de Fuca (1998). The trends among 
Clearwater tributaries were mixed, suggesting that some tributary 
streams are good producers, while others are declining in migrant 
production. The absolute numbers of outmigrants in all streams trapped 
were encouraging; however, NMFS did not weigh trends from the Hoko 
River heavily in its risk determinations because these data are not 
current. In addition, the Dickey River trends were based on only 3 
years of trapping designed to estimate coho salmon production. It is 
difficult to interpret the outmigrant data, partly because smolt-to-
adult survival estimates are lacking

[[Page 16407]]

and because declines in production may have occurred before data 
collection began in 1981. Given the continued demonstrations of 
consistent smolt production from outmigrant trapping, the general 
consensus among scientists is that coastal cutthroat trout are well 
represented in streams throughout the Olympic Peninsula.

    NMFS judges that the risks to the Olympic Peninsula ESU from losses 
of life-history diversity are lower than those for any other coastal 
cutthroat trout ESU. Risks associated with hatchery coastal cutthroat 
trout are probably low in this ESU. However, hatchery releases of coho 
salmon fry occur in some areas on the Olympic Peninsula, which may 
result in increased stress on coastal cutthroat trout due to elevated 
levels of interspecific competition relative to what occurs naturally.

Listing Determination

    NMFS concludes the Olympic Peninsula ESU does not warrant listing 
at this time. However, BRT scientists were highly uncertain about their 
risk assessment due to the lack of quantitative data for this ESU. NMFS 
believes that there is adequate productive cutthroat trout habitat to 
support this ESU; however, data are not available to confirm such a 
conclusion. Consistent smolt production in the Dickey River and the 
general consensus among scientists that coastal cutthroat trout are 
well distributed in streams throughout the Olympic Peninsula support 
this conclusion. Implementation of the NFP has likely reduced risks 
associated with habitat quality and quantity on Federal lands, which 
constitute about 38 percent of the land area within this ESU.

(3) Southwestern Washington/Columbia River ESU

    According to WDFW, the southwestern Washington-lower Columbia River 
region historically supported healthy, highly productive coastal 
cutthroat trout populations. Coastal cutthroat trout, especially the 
freshwater forms, may still be well distributed in most river basins in 
this geographic region, although probably in lower numbers relative to 
historical population sizes. However, severe habitat degradation 
throughout the lower Columbia River area has contributed to dramatic 
declines in anadromous coastal cutthroat trout populations and two near 
extinctions of anadromous runs in the Hood and Sandy Rivers. NMFS 
remains concerned about the extremely low population sizes of 
anadromous coastal cutthroat trout in lower Columbia River streams, 
indicated by low incidental catch of coastal cutthroat trout in salmon 
and steelhead recreational fisheries, and by low trap counts in a 
number of tributaries throughout the region. Although efficiencies for 
these traps in catching coastal cutthroat trout are not known, numbers 
of adults returning to traps have been consistently below 10 fish in 
most streams included in this ESU over each of the past 6 years. In 
contrast, NMFS believes that, even though information on the 
distribution of freshwater forms of coastal cutthroat trout in this 
region was mostly anecdotal, it probably was an accurate reflection of 
their widespread occurrence in streams throughout the region.

    Trends in anadromous adults and outmigrating smolts in the 
southwestern Washington portion of this ESU are all declining. NMFS is 
aware that WDFW considers streams in this region to have a relatively 
good coastal cutthroat trout habitat; however, available data do not 
support the idea that the anadromous coastal cutthroat trout in this 
area are at low risk. Returns of both naturally and hatchery produced 
anadromous coastal cutthroat trout in almost all lower Columbia River 
streams have declined markedly over the last 10 to 15 years. Indeed, 
the only anadromous coastal cutthroat trout population in the lower 
Columbia River to show increases in abundance over the last 10 years is 
the North Fork Toutle River population, which is thought to be 
recovering from the effects of the Mt. Saint Helens eruption in 1980. 
Despite its increasing trend, WDFW states that its population numbers 
are still critically low (approximately 100 total adults in run).

    A significant risk factor for coastal cutthroat trout in this ESU 
is the reduction in life-history diversity. Serious declines in the 
anadromous form have occurred throughout the lower Columbia River, and 
it has been nearly extirpated in at least two rivers on the Oregon side 
of the basin. Available information suggests that, in many streams, the 
freshwater forms of coastal cutthroat trout are well distributed and 
occur in relatively high abundance in comparison to the anadromous 
coastal cutthroat trout in the same stream. ODFW and WDFW presented 
evidence that freshwater coastal cutthroat trout can produce smolts 
that migrate to saltwater. Although this possibility could act to 
mitigate risks to anadromous forms of coastal cutthroat trout, the 
observation that sea-run cutthroat trout population sizes have remained 
consistently low in many areas is a cause for concern. Reduced 
abundance of anadromous fish will tend to restrict connectivity of 
populations in different watersheds, which can increase genetic and 
demographic risks.

    In summary, even if freshwater forms of coastal cutthroat trout 
have been producing occasional smolts, this production has not resulted 
in demonstrably successful re-establishment of anadromous forms. 
Habitat degradation in stream reaches accessible to anadromous coastal 
cutthroat trout, and poor ocean and estuarine conditions, likely have 
combined to severely deplete this life-history form throughout the 
lower Columbia River Basin. Without the appropriate freshwater and 
estuarine habitat for the expression of anadromous life history, a 
greater risk of extinction may occur. The significance of this 
reduction in life-history diversity to the both the integrity and the 
likelihood of this ESU's long-term persistence is a major concern to 

    Negative effects of hatchery coastal cutthroat trout may be 
contributing to the risks facing naturally spawned coastal cutthroat 
trout in this ESU. The lower Columbia River tributaries are the only 
streams in Washington still receiving hatchery-origin coastal cutthroat 
trout, although the total numbers of released hatchery fish have 
recently been substantially curtailed. In the early 1980s, an estimated 
50 to 80 percent of the recreational catch for coastal cutthroat trout 
in the lower Columbia River was composed of hatchery fish. Biologists 
familiar with coastal cutthroat trout feel that recreational catch data 
reflect true trends in coastal cutthroat trout abundance (Hooton, 
1997). Furthermore, the largest returns of coastal cutthroat trout in 
this region are to the Cowlitz River Basin, and existing information is 
consistent with the interpretation that a significant proportion of 
those fish are of hatchery origin (WDFW, 1998). The ultimate effects of 
hatchery fish depend on the relative sizes of hatchery and naturally 
spawned populations, the spatial and temporal overlap of hatchery and 
naturally spawned fish throughout their life cycles, and the actual 
extent to which hatchery fish spawn naturally and interbreed with 
naturally produced fish. In addition, the extent to which naturally 
spawned coastal cutthroat trout are incidentally harvested in fisheries 
targeting hatchery coastal cutthroat trout and other salmonids of 
hatchery origin also affects the

[[Page 16408]]

magnitude of the risks to coastal cutthroat trout from hatchery fish.

Listing Determination

    NMFS concludes the Southwestern Washington/Columbia River ESU 
warrants listing as a threatened species. The degree of scientific 
certainty in this conclusion is somewhat higher than that for the other 
cutthroat trout ESUs. NMFS is particularly concerned about the 
widespread declines in abundance and the small population sizes of 
anadromous cutthroat trout throughout the lower Columbia River, as 
exemplified by near extinctions of anadromous cutthroat trout runs in 
the Hood and Sandy rivers. The severe reductions in abundance of this 
life-history form could have deleterious effects on the ability of this 
ESU to recover from widespread declines. Reductions in the quantity and 
quality of estuarine and riverine habitat have probably contributed to 
declines, but the relative importance of these risk factors is not well 
understood. However, NMFS is encouraged by recent steps taken by the 
States of Washington and Oregon to reduce mortality due to directed and 
incidental harvest of coastal cutthroat trout. Also, the apparent 
widespread distribution of non-migratory cutthroat trout in this ESU 
may help buffer extinction risks to some degree.

    Recent conservation planning efforts by the States of Washington 
and Oregon may reduce risks faced by cutthroat trout in this ESU; 
however, these efforts are still in their formative stages. 
Specifically, the State of Washington's LCSCI is still in a 
developmental stage, and various technical and financial aspects of the 
plan need to be addressed. Furthermore, this effort is currently 
limited to lower Columbia River areas. The OPSW, while substantially 
implemented and funded on the Oregon Coast, has not yet reached a 
similar level of development in inland areas. Implementation of the NFP 
has likely reduced habitat risks on Federal lands, which constitute 
about 20 percent of the land area within this ESU.

(4) Upper Willamette River ESU

    The conservation status of this ESU was not formally evaluated by 
NMFS. As stated earlier, the Services concluded that FWS retained ESA 
jurisdiction for cutthroat trout populations occurring above Willamette 
Falls. The conservation status of this ESU will be evaluated by FWS.

(5) Oregon Coast ESU

    Coastal cutthroat trout in the Oregon coastal region occur mostly 
in small populations that are relatively well distributed. Most of the 
abundance information considered by NMFS for this ESU consists of 
juvenile and smolt abundance information, with the prominent exception 
of the adult counts at Winchester Dam on the North Umpqua River. In 
general, NMFS is encouraged by the number of juveniles in coastal 
streams with relatively large basins. Since the available data covers 
only the last 2 years, the accuracy in which these juvenile counts 
translate into adult abundances or longer-term population trends is 
uncertain. The estimated pre-1970s abundance of anadromous coastal 
cutthroat trout in the largest river basin contained within this ESU, 
the Umpqua River, is 30,000 adults. A recent estimate of total run 
size, based on expansions of observed numbers of adults from snorkel 
surveys, is similar. (However, NMFS remains concerned about the 
assumptions underlying expansion methods using snorkel survey data for 
the freshwater forms of coastal cutthroat trout in the Umpqua Basin.)

    Conflicting information about the abundance and distribution of 
coastal cutthroat trout in the South Umpqua River Basin suggest that 
there is insufficient information to reliably determine the status of 
coastal cutthroat trout in that drainage. The number of adults 
returning to the North Umpqua River has been critically low in recent 
years (5-year geometric mean = 18 fish), although for the past 3 years, 
79, 81, and 110 (through October, 1998) adult coastal cutthroat trout 
have been counted at Winchester Dam.

    Smolt production in two small drainages (Cummins and Tenmile 
Creeks) in central Oregon shows an increasing trend over the past 7 
years. However, the percentage of repeat spawners has declined in both 
drainages relative to estimates in the early 1970s. All other streams 
on the Oregon coast for which data are available are experiencing 
moderate declines in adults and juveniles. In some areas, declines may 
have occurred primarily in anadromous coastal cutthroat trout 
populations. For example, in the Alsea and Siuslaw River Basins, 
declines in anadromous runs have occurred as indicated by recreational 
catch data, but ODFW believes there is no evidence for similar declines 
in the freshwater forms of coastal cutthroat trout in those same 

    NMFS remains concerned about reductions in anadromous life-history 
forms throughout this ESU. Available information indicates that sea-run 
cutthroat trout are suffering more serious declines than are freshwater 
forms along Oregon coastal streams. ODFW suggests that these freshwater 
forms may be producing smolts in several coastal streams. However, NMFS 
does not have the estimates of adult anadromous coastal cutthroat trout 
in those streams, so it is difficult to evaluate the possibility that 
freshwater forms could buffer anadromous forms from further declines.

    Risks due to interactions with hatchery coastal cutthroat trout are 
probably moderately low in this ESU. Nevertheless, the widespread 
releases of Alsea River Hatchery broodstock in Oregon coastal streams 
have stopped only relatively recently. Genetic samples indicate that 
hatchery coastal cutthroat trout from the Alsea River broodstock have 
influenced the genetic composition of several coastal cutthroat trout 
populations in the Coquille River drainage. Hybrids between coastal 
cutthroat trout and steelhead/rainbow trout were detected in genetic 
samples from the Coquille River Basin and a few other streams in this 
ESU. As discussed earlier, some degree of hybridization between O. 
mykiss and coastal cutthroat trout may occur naturally without the 
direct influence of hatchery-origin fish.

Listing Determination

    NMFS concludes that the Oregon Coast coastal cutthroat trout ESU 
does not warrant listing at this time but considers it a candidate for 
future listing. The BRT scientists were evenly split as to whether this 
ESU faced risk of endangerment. NMFS remains concerned with habitat 
degradation in this region, and the overall scarcity of abundance 
information for major drainages limited NMFS' efforts to conduct a risk 

    Hatchery records indicate that the Alsea River coastal cutthroat 
trout stock was widely released in streams throughout the Oregon 
coastal region. Recent reductions in releases of hatchery-origin 
cutthroat trout and coho salmon fry, coupled with a statewide catch-
and-release recreational fishery policy for naturally spawned coastal 
cutthroat trout, may reduce risks associated with these factors. NMFS 
notes that reduced nearshore ocean habitat quality is likely a 
significant threat to cutthroat trout in this region, but quantifying 
those effects on cutthroat trout abundance is difficult. Finally, NMFS 
remains concerned about

[[Page 16409]]

incidental mortality of coastal cutthroat trout in this ESU due to 
fishing pressure on Pacific salmonids. Recent changes in ODFW's harvest 
regulations may mitigate this concern to some degree.

    Recently implemented state conservation efforts have likely reduced 
the degree of risk facing this species. Furthermore, implementation of 
the NFP has likely reduced habitat risks on Federal lands within this 
ESU, which constitute about 35 percent of the land area. However, NMFS 
remains concerned about the overall lack of abundance and trend 
information for this ESU, as evidenced by its scientists' level of 
uncertainty regarding the status of this ESU. An additional concern for 
this ESU is increased fragmentation of populations due to the loss of 
anadromous fish, which can increase genetic and demographic risks. NMFS 
believes additional monitoring of this ESU is necessary before it is 
eliminated from ESA consideration. Therefore, NMFS concludes that this 
ESU warrants classification as a candidate species. NMFS will revisit 
the status of this ESU within the next 4 years to determine whether ESA 
protection is warranted.

(6) Southern Oregon/California Coasts ESU

    Coastal cutthroat trout in this ESU appear widely distributed in 
many small populations. Two possible exceptions are populations in the 
Rogue and Smith River Basins where the abundance of coastal cutthroat 
trout may be comparatively high. Smolt abundance in Lobster Creek, a 
Rogue River tributary, was estimated to be over 800 fish in 1998. In 
addition, fishery biologists familiar with the Rogue River Basin feel 
that it supports many well-distributed coastal cutthroat trout 
populations. Historical estimates indicated that the sea-run cutthroat 
trout population size in the Smith River Basin was 8,500 fish. 
Expansion estimates of fish greater than 25 cm in the three major forks 
of the Smith River indicate that each fork supports at least 300 
coastal cutthroat trout. In addition, Mill Creek, one of the most 
productive coastal cutthroat trout tributaries in the Smith River 
Basin, has had between 1,000 and 4,000 outmigrating smolts over each of 
the past 4 years. Again, lack of information on smolt-to-adult survival 
and trap efficiencies makes interpreting smolt abundance estimates in 
the Rogue and Smith River Basins difficult. Population sizes are 
thought to be relatively small in other streams throughout this region, 
partly because it is the southern limit of this subspecies.

    NMFS believes that severe habitat degradation has occurred in this 
region primarily due to activities associated with agriculture, flood 
control, logging, road construction, and some local development, which 
have contributed to a reduction in habitat capacity relative to 
historical levels. In addition, seasonal dewatering of stream mouths 
occurs naturally in northern California, resulting in sporadic 
blockages of access to the sea for anadromous fish in some streams. 
Also, large water withdrawals in several of the larger coastal river 
basins (e.g., Rogue, Klamath/Trinity, and Eel Rivers) and several of 
the smaller coastal rivers have reduced the quantity and quality of the 
remaining riverine and estuarine environments in this ESU.

    Biologists familiar with this region believe, and anecdotal 
evidence suggests, that major declines in coastal cutthroat trout 
populations have occurred since historical times and that some 
populations appear to have been relatively stable or increasing in size 
since that time. The data available to NMFS indicate increasing short-
term trends in smolt abundance in Mill Creek and increasing short-term 
trends in adult abundance in the lower Klamath River tributaries and 
its estuary and in the Smith River Basin. Exceptions include recent 
declines in the incidence of coastal cutthroat trout in Redwood Creek.

    Risks due to interactions with hatchery coastal cutthroat trout are 
probably low in this ESU. Other risks NMFS notes for coastal cutthroat 
trout in this region are possible deleterious interactions with 
naturally occurring or hatchery-derived coho salmon and steelhead in 
Oregon and incidental catch of coastal cutthroat trout in sport 
fisheries targeting steelhead and coho salmon. NMFS is encouraged by 
recent changes in harvest regulations in both Oregon and California 
aimed at reducing risks to natural trout from direct and indirect 
harvest mortality.
Listing Determination

    NMFS concludes the Southern Oregon/California Coasts ESU does not 
warrant listing at this time. Although the majority of the BRT 
scientists concluded this ESU does not warrant listing, these 
scientists were uncertain regarding this conclusion. As with many other 
ESUs for coastal cutthroat trout, NMFS is hindered in its assessment by 
the scarcity of abundance information for this ESU. However, continuing 
threats to the quality of freshwater and estuarine habitat for 
cutthroat trout in this region are sources of concern.

    NMFS believes that existing conservation efforts implemented by the 
States of Oregon and California have likely reduced threats to this 
species. For example, recent harvest regulations aimed at reducing 
risks to natural trout from direct and indirect harvest mortality have 
likely reduced risks to coastal cutthroat trout. NMFS also believes 
that biological risks associated with habitat modification and 
degradation on Federal lands have declined in recent years with the 
implementation of the NFP, coupled with the consultation requirements 
associated with the listing of coho salmon as a threatened species in 
this region in 1997. Although NMFS remains concerned about habitat 
conditions on non-federal lands in this ESU, the majority of habitat in 
this area (about 53 percent) is under Federal management.

Proposed Determination

    Based on NMFS' assessment of available scientific and commercial 
information obtained during the coast wide status review of coastal 
cutthroat trout, the Services are issuing a proposed determination that 
Southwestern Washington/Columbia River cutthroat trout (O. clarki 
clarki) constitute a ``species'' under the ESA and should be listed as 
threatened. The listed ESU for Southwestern Washington/Columbia River 
cutthroat trout is defined as all naturally spawned population(s) of 
coastal cutthroat trout in the Columbia River and its tributaries 
downstream from the Klickitat River in Washington and Fifteenmile Creek 
in Oregon (inclusive) as well as those in the Willamette River and its 
tributaries downstream from Willamette Falls. The ESU also includes 
cutthroat trout in Washington coastal drainages between the Columbia 
River and Grays Harbor (inclusive). The natural population consists of 
all fish that are progeny of naturally spawning fish residing below 
long-term, natural barriers (i.e., waterfalls in existence for hundreds 
or thousands of years). The offspring of all fish taken from the 
natural population after the date of listing are also part of the 
listed ESU.

    NMFS concludes that the current Umpqua River cutthroat trout ESU, 
previously listed as an endangered species in 1996 (61 FR 41541, August 
9, 1996; 61 FR 48412, September 13, 1996), is part of the larger Oregon 
Coast coastal cutthroat trout ESU that extends from the mouth of the 
Columbia River south to Cape Blanco, Oregon. NMFS concludes that the 
best available scientific information indicates the Oregon Coast ESU 
does not warrant

[[Page 16410]]

listing at this time. Therefore, through this notification, the 
Services propose to revise the Umpqua River cutthroat trout ESU and 
include it in the larger Oregon Coast ESU. This proposed revision 
results in a proposed delisting of the Umpqua River cutthroat trout 

Prohibitions and Protective Measures

    Section 9 of the ESA prohibits certain activities that directly or 
indirectly affect endangered species. These prohibitions apply to all 
individuals, organizations, and agencies subject to U.S. jurisdiction. 
Section 9 prohibitions apply automatically to endangered species as 
described in the following discussion; this is not the case for 
threatened species.

    Section 4(d) of the ESA directs the Secretaries to implement 
regulations ``to provide for the conservation of [threatened] 
species,'' that may include extending any or all of the prohibitions of 
section 9 to threatened species. Section 9(a)(1)(g) also prohibits 
violations of protective regulations for threatened species implemented 
under section 4(d). Therefore, in the case of threatened species, the 
Services have discretion under section 4(d) to adopt protective 
regulations based in part on the contents of available conservation 
measures. NMFS has already adopted 4(d) rules that except a limited 
range of activities from section 9 take prohibitions. For example, the 
interim 4(d) rule for Southern Oregon/Northern California coho salmon 
(62 FR 38479, July 18, 1997) excepts habitat restoration activities 
conducted in accordance with approved plans and fisheries conducted in 
accordance with approved state management plans. In appropriate cases, 
4(d) rules could contain a broader range of exceptions for activities 
such as forestry, agriculture, and road construction when such 
activities are conducted in accordance with approved state or tribal 

    These examples show that NMFS may apply section 9 prohibitions 
narrowly if there are strong protections provided in a state or tribal 
plan. There may be other circumstances as well in which NMFS would use 
the flexibility of section 4(d). For example, in some cases there may 
be a healthy population of salmon or coastal cutthroat trout within an 
overall ESU that is listed. In such a case, it may not be necessary to 
apply the full range of prohibitions available in section 9. The 
Services intend to use the flexibility of the ESA to respond 
appropriately to the biological condition of the proposed ESU and the 
populations within it and to the strength of state and tribal plans in 
place to protect them. Therefore, after further analysis, NMFS and/or 
the FWS will issue protective regulations pursuant to section 4(d) for 
the Southwestern Washington/Columbia River coastal cutthroat trout ESU.

    Section 7(a)(4) of the ESA requires that Federal agencies confer 
with us on any actions likely to jeopardize the continued existence of 
a species proposed for listing and on actions likely to result in the 
destruction or adverse modification of proposed critical habitat. 
Federal agencies should confer with NMFS on the proposed Southwestern 
Washington/Columbia River coastal cutthroat trout ESU. For listed 
species, section 7(a)(2) requires Federal agencies to ensure that the 
activities they authorize, fund, or conduct are not likely to 
jeopardize the continued existence of a listed species or to destroy or 
adversely modify its critical habitat. If a Federal action may affect a 
listed species or its critical habitat, the responsible Federal agency 
must enter into consultation with the appropriate Service.

    Examples of Federal actions likely to affect coastal cutthroat 
trout in the proposed ESU include authorized land management activities 
of the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Bureau of Land Management, as well 
as operation of hydroelectric and storage projects of the Bureau of 
Reclamation and the COE. Such activities include timber sales and 
harvest, hydroelectric power generation, and flood control. Federal 
actions, including the COE section 404 permitting activities under the 
CWA, COE permitting activities under the River and Harbors Act, 
National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits issued by the 
EPA, highway projects authorized by the Federal Highway Administration, 
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission licenses for non-federal 
development and operation of hydropower, and Federal salmon hatcheries, 
may also require consultation. These actions will likely be subject to 
ESA section 7 consultation requirements that may result in conditions 
designed to achieve the intended purpose of the project and avoid or 
reduce impacts to coastal cutthroat trout and its habitat within the 
range of the proposed ESU.

    Sections 10(a)(1)(A) and 10(a)(1)(B) of the ESA provide us with the 
authority to grant exceptions to the ESA's ``taking'' prohibitions (see 
regulations to be codified at 50 CFR 222.301 through 222.308 for NMFS, 
64 FR 14051 through 14066, and 50 CFR 17.22 and 17.32 for FWS). Section 
10(a)(1)(A) scientific research and enhancement permits may be issued 
to entities (Federal and non-Federal) conducting research that involves 
a directed take of listed species.

    NMFS has issued section 10(a)(1)(A) research or enhancement permits 
for other listed species (e.g., Snake River chinook salmon and 
Sacramento River winter-run chinook salmon) for a number of activities, 
including trapping and tagging, electroshocking to determine population 
presence and abundance, removing fish from irrigation ditches, and 
collecting adult fish for artificial propagation programs. These and 
other research efforts could provide critical information regarding 
cutthroat trout distribution and population abundance.

    We can issue section 10(a)(1)(B) incidental take permits to non-
federal entities performing activities that may incidentally take 
listed species. The types of activities potentially requiring a section 
10(a)(1)(B) incidental take permit include the operation and release of 
artificially propagated fish by state or privately operated and funded 
hatcheries, state or university research on listed species not 
receiving Federal authorization or funding, the implementation of state 
fishing regulations, and timber harvest activities on non-Federal 

Conservation Measures

    Conservation measures provided to species listed as endangered or 
threatened under the ESA include recognition, recovery actions, Federal 
agency consultation requirements, and prohibitions on taking. 
Recognition through listing promotes public awareness and conservation 
actions by Federal, state, and local agencies, private organizations, 
and individuals.

    Several conservation efforts are underway that may help reverse the 
decline of coastal cutthroat trout and other salmonids. These include 
the NFP (on Federal lands within the range of the northern spotted 
owl), Oregon's OPSW, Washington's LCSCI, and California's WPRC and SB 
271 programs. We are encouraged by these efforts and believe they 
constitute significant strides in the region's endeavor to develop a 
scientifically well grounded conservation plan for these stocks. Other 
efforts, such as the Willamette River Conservation Planning process, 
are at various stages of development, but show promise to ameliorate 
risks facing coastal cutthroat trout. We intend to support and work 
closely with these efforts--staff and resources permitting--in the 
belief that

[[Page 16411]]

they can play an important role in the recovery planning process.

    Based on information presented in this proposed rule, general 
conservation measures that could be implemented to help conserve 
coastal cutthroat trout are listed here. This list is not exhaustive 
and does not constitute NMFS' interpretation of a recovery plan under 
section 4(f) of the ESA.

    1. Measures could be taken to promote land management practices 
that protect and restore cutthroat trout habitat. Land management 
practices affecting cutthroat trout habitat include timber harvest, 
road building, agriculture, livestock grazing, gravel mining, and urban 

    2. Evaluation of existing harvest regulations could identify any 
changes necessary to protect cutthroat trout populations.

    3. Artificial propagation programs could be required to incorporate 
practices that minimize impacts upon natural populations of cutthroat 

    4. Efforts could be made to ensure that existing and proposed dam 
facilities are designed and operated in a manner that lessens adverse 
effects on cutthroat trout populations.

    5. Water diversions could have adequate headgate and staff gauge 
structures installed to control and monitor water usage accurately. 
Water rights could be enforced to prevent irrigators from exceeding the 
amount of water to which they are legally entitled. As necessary, 
instream flow studies could be conducted, and existing water rights re-
adjudicated as necessary to ensure adequate instream flows to support 
cutthroat trout.

    6. Irrigation diversions affecting downstream migrating cutthroat 
trout could be screened according to appropriate anadromous fish screen 
criteria. A thorough review of the impact of irrigation diversions on 
cutthroat trout could be conducted.

    We recognize that, to be successful, protective regulations and 
recovery programs for cutthroat trout will need to be developed in the 
context of conserving aquatic ecosystem health. We intend that Federal 
lands and Federal activities play a primary role in preserving listed 
populations and the ecosystems upon which they depend. However, 
throughout the range of the ESU proposed for listing, cutthroat trout 
habitat occurs and can be affected by activities on state, tribal, or 
private land. Agricultural, timber, and urban land management 
activities on non-federal land could and should be conducted in a 
manner that minimizes adverse effects to cutthroat trout habitat.

    We encourage non-Federal landowners to assess the impacts of their 
actions on potentially threatened or endangered salmonids. In 
particular, we encourage the establishment of watershed partnerships to 
promote conservation in accordance with ecosystem principles. These 
partnerships will be successful only if state, tribal, local 
governments, landowner representatives, and Federal and non-Federal 
biologists all participate and share the goal of restoring cutthroat 
trout to the watersheds.

Critical Habitat Determination

    Critical habitat is defined in section 3 of the ESA as: (i) The 
specific areas within the geographical area occupied by a species, at 
the time it is listed in accordance with the ESA, on which are found 
those physical or biological features (I) essential to the conservation 
of the species and (II) that may require special management 
considerations or protection; and (ii) specific areas outside the 
geographical area occupied by a species at the time it is listed, upon 
a determination that such areas are essential for the conservation of 
the species. ``Conservation'' means the use of all methods and 
procedures needed to bring the species to the point at which listing 
under the Act is no longer necessary.

    Section 4(a)(3)(A) of the ESA requires that, to the maximum extent 
prudent and determinable, the Services designate critical habitat 
concurrently with a determination that a species is endangered or 
threatened. Our regulations (50 CFR 424.12(a)) state that critical 
habitat is not determinable if information sufficient to perform 
required analysis of the impacts of designation is lacking or if the 
biological needs of the species are not sufficiently well known to 
permit identification of an area as critical habitat. Section 4(b)(2) 
of the ESA requires us to consider economic and other relevant impacts 
of designating a particular area as critical habitat on the basis of 
the best scientific data available. The Secretaries may exclude any 
area from critical habitat if they determine that the economic benefits 
of such exclusion outweigh the conservation benefits, unless to do such 
would result in the extinction of the species. When a ``not 
determinable'' finding is made, we must, within 2 years of the 
publication date of the original proposed rule, designate critical 
habitat, unless designation is found to be not prudent.

    Prior to proposing critical habitat for this species, the Services 
must identify geographic areas occupied by the species, as well as 
areas outside the current species range, which contain important 
physical or biological features essential for the conservation and 
recovery of the species, and must consider the economic and other 
impacts of designating critical habitat. Given this species' complex 
life history and the high degree of scientific uncertainty associated 
with it, NMFS has not yet had time to complete analyses necessary for 
designating critical habitat. Further, due to statutory time 
limitations, NMFS has not yet consulted with affected Indian tribes 
regarding the designation of critical habitat in areas that may impact 
tribal trust resources, tribally-owned fee lands, or the exercise of 
tribal rights. Such consultation is required by the recently 
implemented Secretarial Order entitled ``American Indian Tribal Rights, 
Federal-Tribal Trust Responsibilities, and the Endangered Species 

    Given these remaining unresolved scientific and tribal issues, the 
Services find that critical habitat is not now determinable for the 
proposed ESU. During the comment period for this listing proposal, the 
Services also seek additional agency and public input on critical 
habitat, along with information on the proposed listing. We will use 
this and other information in formulating a determination on critical 
habitat for the Southwestern Washington/Columbia River ESU. The 
Services will also engage in government-to-government consultations 
with affected Indian tribes as required by the Secretarial Order.

NMFS Policies on Endangered and Threatened Fish and Wildlife

    On July 1, 1994, the Services published a series of policies 
regarding listings under the ESA, including a policy for peer review of 
scientific data (59 FR 34270) and a policy to identify, to the maximum 
extent possible, those activities that would or would not constitute a 
violation of section 9 of the ESA (59 FR 34272).

Role of Peer Review

    The intent of the peer review policy is to ensure that listings are 
based on the best scientific and commercial data available. Prior to a 
final listing, NMFS will solicit the expert opinions of three qualified 
specialists, concurrent with the public comment period. Independent 
peer reviewers will be selected from the academic and scientific 
community, tribal and other

[[Page 16412]]

Native American groups, Federal and state agencies, and the private 

Identification of Those Activities That Would Constitute a Violation of 
Section 9 of the ESA

    The intent of this policy is to increase public awareness of the 
effect of this listing on proposed and ongoing activities within the 
range of coastal cutthroat trout. NMFS or the FWS will publish a 
proposed 4(d) rule in the future applying section 9 prohibitions and 
exceptions. However, to provide guidance prior to publication of this 
proposed rule, the following is a list of actions NMFS believes will 
not result in a violation of section 9:

    (1) Possession of cutthroat trout acquired lawfully by permit 
issued by the appropriate Service pursuant to section 10 of the ESA, or 
by the terms of an incidental take statement pursuant to section 7 of 
the ESA.

    (2) Federally approved projects that involve activities such as 
silviculture, grazing, mining, road construction, dam construction and 
operation, discharge of fill material, stream channelization or 
diversion for which consultation has been completed, and when such 
activity is conducted in accordance with any terms and conditions given 
by NMFS or the FWS in an incidental take statement accompanied by a 
biological opinion.

    Activities that NMFS believes could potentially harm the cutthroat 
trout and result in ``take'', include, but are not limited to:

    (1) Unauthorized collecting or handling of the species. Permits to 
conduct these activities are available for purposes of scientific 
research or to enhance the propagation or survival of the species.

    (2) Unauthorized destruction/alteration of the species' habitat 
such as removal of large woody debris or riparian shade canopy, 
dredging, discharge of fill material, draining, ditching, diverting, 
blocking, or altering stream channels or surface or ground water flow.

    (3) Discharges or dumping of toxic chemicals or other pollutants 
(i.e., sewage, oil, and gasoline) into waters or riparian areas 
supporting the species.

    (4) Violation of discharge permits.

    (5) Interstate and foreign commerce (commerce across state lines 
and international boundaries) and import/export without prior 
obtainment of an endangered species permit.

    This list is not exhaustive; rather, it is provided to give you 
some examples of activities that may be considered by NMFS as 
constituting a ``take'' of coastal cutthroat trout under the ESA and 
associated regulations. Questions regarding whether specific activities 
constitute a violation of section 9 and general inquiries regarding 
prohibitions and permits, should be directed to NMFS (see ADDRESSES).

Public Comments Solicited

    To ensure that the final action resulting from this proposal will 
be as accurate and effective as possible, we are soliciting comments 
and suggestions from the public, other governmental agencies, the 
scientific community, industry, and any other interested parties. We 
will hold public hearings in the areas affected by this proposal; 
details regarding locations, dates, and times will be published in a 
forthcoming Federal Register notification. We recognize that there are 
serious limits to the quality of information available, and, therefore, 
NMFS has executed its best professional judgement in developing this 
proposal. We request additional information regarding coastal cutthroat 
trout, in particular: (1) Biological or other relevant data concerning 
any threat to cutthroat trout; (2) the range, distribution, and 
population size of coastal cutthroat trout in the proposed and 
candidate ESUs; (3) current or planned activities in the subject areas 
and their possible impact on the proposed and candidate species; (4) 
cutthroat trout escapement, particularly escapement data partitioned 
into natural and hatchery components; (5) the proportion of naturally 
reproducing fish that were reared as juveniles in a hatchery; (6) 
homing and straying of natural and hatchery fish; (7) the reproductive 
success of naturally reproducing hatchery fish (i.e., hatchery-produced 
fish that spawn in natural habitat) and their relationship to the 
proposed and candidate ESUs; and (8) efforts being made to protect 
native, naturally reproducing populations of coastal cutthroat trout in 
Washington, Oregon, and California.

    We also request quantitative evaluations describing the quality and 
extent of freshwater and marine habitats for juvenile and adult 
cutthroat trout as well as information on areas that may qualify as 
critical habitat in Washington and Oregon. Areas that include the 
physical and biological features essential to the recovery of the 
species should be identified. We recognize there are areas within the 
proposed boundaries of these ESUs that historically constituted 
cutthroat trout habitat, but that may not be currently occupied by 
cutthroat trout. We request information about cutthroat trout in these 
currently unoccupied areas and whether these habitats should be 
considered essential to the recovery of the species or excluded from 
designation. Essential features include, but are not limited to (1) 
habitat for individual and population growth, and for normal behavior; 
(2) food, water, air, light, minerals, or other nutritional or 
physiological requirements; (3) cover or shelter; (4) sites for 
reproduction and rearing of offspring; and (5) habitats that are 
protected from disturbance or are representative of the historical 
geographical and ecological distributions of the species.

    For areas potentially qualifying as critical habitat, we request 
information describing (1) the activities that affect the area or could 
be affected by the designation, and (2) the economic costs and benefits 
of additional requirements of management measures likely to result from 
the designation.

    We will consider all public comments and additional information 
regarding the status and critical habitat of the cutthroat trout ESUs 
prior to issuing a final determination. The availability of new 
information may cause us to reassess the status of cutthroat trout ESUs 
in the final determination.

Public Hearings

    Joint Commerce-Interior ESA implementing regulations require us to 
promptly hold at least one public hearing if any person so requests 
within 45 days of publication of a proposed regulation to list a 
species or to designate critical habitat (see 50 CFR 424.16(c)(3)). In 
a forthcoming Federal Register notification, we will announce the dates 
and locations of public hearings on this proposed rule to provide the 
opportunity for the public to give comments and to permit an exchange 
of information and opinion among interested parties. We encourage the 
public's involvement in such ESA matters.


    A complete list of all references cited herein is available upon 
request (see ADDRESSES).


    The 1982 amendments to the ESA, in section 4(b)(1)(A), restrict the 
information that may be considered when assessing species for listing. 
Based on this limitation of criteria for a listing decision and the 
opinion in Pacific Legal Foundation v. Andrus, 675 F.2d 825 (6th Cir. 
1981), NMFS categorically excludes all ESA listing actions from

[[Page 16413]]

environmental assessment requirements of the National Environmental 
Policy Act (NEPA) under NOAA Administrative Order 216-6. FWS also 
determined that an environmental assessment need not be prepared in 
connection with regulations adopted pursuant to section 4 of the ESA 
and published a notice in the Federal Register on October 25, 1983 (48 
FR 49244), outlining its reasons.

    As noted in the Conference Report on the 1982 amendments to the 
ESA, economic impacts cannot be considered in determinations regarding 
the status of species. Therefore, the economic analysis requirements of 
the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA) are not applicable to the listing 
process. In addition, this proposed rule is exempt from review under 
E.O. 12866.

    At this time we are not proposing protective regulations pursuant 
to ESA section 4(d). In the future, prior to finalizing its 4(d) 
regulations for the threatened ESU, we will comply with all relevant 
NEPA and RFA requirements.

    This proposed rule does not contain a collection-of-information 
requirement for purposes of the Paperwork Reduction Act.

List of Subjects

50 CFR Part 17

    Endangered and threatened species, Exports, Imports, Reporting and 
record keeping requirements, Transportation.

50 CFR Part 223

    Endangered and threatened species, Exports, Imports, Marine 
mammals, Transportation.

50 CFR Part 224

    Administrative practice and procedure, Endangered and threatened 
species, Exports, Imports, Reporting and record keeping requirements, 

50 CFR Part 226

    Endangered and threatened species.

    For the reasons set out in the preamble, 50 CFR parts 17, 223, 224, 
and 226 are proposed to be amended as follows:


    1. The authority citation for part 17 continues to read as follows:

    Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1361-1407; 16 U.S.C. 1531-1544; 16 U.S.C. 
4201-4245; Pub. L. 99-625, 100 Stat. 3500, unless otherwise noted.

    2. Amend Sec. 17.11(h) by adding the following in alphabetical 
order under ``Fishes'', to the List of Endangered and Threatened 

Sec. 17.11  Endangered and threatened wildlife.

* * * * *

    (h) * * *

                        Species                                                  Vertebrate population
--------------------------------------------------------    Historic range        where endangered or        Status         When     Critical   Special
           Common name                Scientific name                                 threatened                           listed    habitat     rules

                   *                  *                  *                  *                  *                  *                  *

                   *                  *                  *                  *                  *                  *                  *
Trout, coastal cutthroat.........  Oncorhynchus clarki   U.S.A. (AK, CA, OR,   Southwestern WA/Columbia  T               .........         NA         NA
                                    clarki.               WA) Canada.           R.--(USA--OR, WA)--
                                                                                naturally spawning
                                                                                populations (and their
                                                                                progeny) below natural
                                                                                barriers in Columbia R.
                                                                                and its tributaries
                                                                                downstream from
                                                                                Klickitat R. (WA) and
                                                                                Fifteenmile Cr. (OR),
                                                                                inclusive, including
                                                                                Willamette R.
                                                                                downstream from
                                                                                Willamette Falls, and
                                                                                in coastal drainages
                                                                                between Columbia R. and
                                                                                Grays Harbor (WA),

                   *                  *                  *                  *                  *                  *                  *

    3. Amend Sec. 17.11(h) by removing the entry for ``Trout, Umpqua 
River cutthroat'' under ``Fishes'' from the List of Endangered and 
Threatened Wildlife.


    4. The authority citation for part 223 continues to read as 

    Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.; 16 U.S.C. 742a et seq.; 31 
U.S.C. 9701.

    5. In Sec. 223.102, paragraph (a)(20) is added to read as follows:

Sec. 223.102  Enumeration of threatened marine and anadromous species.

* * * * *

    (a) * * *

    (20) Southwestern Washington/Columbia River coastal cutthroat trout 
(Oncorhynchus clarki clarki). Includes all naturally spawned 
populations of coastal cutthroat trout (and their progeny) residing 
below long-standing, naturally impassable barriers in the Columbia 
River and its tributaries downstream from the Klickitat River in 
Washington and Fifteenmile Creek in Oregon (inclusive), including the 
Willamette River and its tributaries downstream from Willamette Falls, 
as well as those populations in Washington coastal drainages from the 
Columbia River to Grays Harbor (inclusive).
* * * * *


    6. The authority citation for part 224 continues to read as 

    Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1531-1543 and 16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq.

Sec. 224.101  [Amended]

    7. In Sec. 224.101, in paragraph (a), remove the words ``Umpqua 
River cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarki clarki)''.


    8. The authority citation for part 226 continues to read as 

[[Page 16414]]

    Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1533.

Sec. 226.206  [Removed]

    9. Section 226.206 is removed.

Secs. 226.207 through 226.209  [Redesignated as Secs. 226.206 through 

    10. Sections 226.207 through 226.209 are redesignated as 
Secs. 226.206 through 226.208, respectively.

Table 4 to part 226  [Removed]

    11. Table 4 to part 226 is removed.

    Dated: March 29, 1999.
Rolland A. Schmitten,
Assistant Administrator for Fisheries,
National Marine Fisheries Service.

    Dated: March 22, 1999.
Jamie Rappaport Clark,
Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 99-8195 Filed 4-2-99; 8:45 am]