[Federal Register: October 9, 2001 (Volume 66, Number 195)]
[Proposed Rules]               
[Page 51362-51366]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants: 12-Month Finding 
for a Petition To List the Bonneville Cutthroat Trout as Threatened 
Throughout Its Range

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of 12-month petition finding.


SUMMARY: We, the Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce a 12-
month finding for a petition to list the Bonneville cutthroat trout 
(Oncorhynchus clarki utah) as threatened throughout its range pursuant 
to the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended. After review of the 
best available scientific and commercial information, we find that 
listing the Bonneville cutthroat trout (BCT) is not warranted at this 

[[Page 51363]]

DATES: The finding announced in this document was made on September 28, 

ADDRESSES: Data, information, comments, or questions regarding this 
notice should be sent to the Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service, Utah Ecological Services Field Office, 145 East 1300 South, 
Suite 404, Salt Lake City, Utah 84115. The complete administrative file 
for this finding is available for inspection during normal business 
hours, by appointment, at the above address. The status review document 
for the Bonneville cutthroat trout also may be obtained at that 
address, or at our Internet web site at www.r6fws.gov/cutthroat>.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Yvette Converse at the above address 
or telephone (801) 524-5001, extension 135, or e-mail 



    Section 4(b)(3)(B) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as 
amended (Act) (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), requires that within 90 days of 
receipt of the petition, to the maximum extent practicable, we make a 
finding on whether a petition to list, delist, or reclassify a species 
presents substantial scientific or commercial information indicating 
that the requested action may be warranted. If there is substantial 
information, the Act requires that we review the status of the species 
and publish another finding, the 12-month finding, indicating whether 
the petitioned action is--(a) not warranted, (b) warranted, or (c) 
warranted but precluded from immediate listing proposal by other 
pending proposals of higher priority. Such 12-month findings are to be 
published promptly in the Federal Register.
    In the mid-to late 1970s, professional fisheries organizations 
became concerned by reports from the professional and academic 
communities that few genetically ``pure'' populations of BCT remained 
in existence (Tanner 1936; Cope 1955; Sigler and Miller 1963, Holden et 
al. 1974, Behnke 1976, Hickman 1978). These reports prompted fish 
conservation groups to investigate the status of BCT. After receiving a 
petition from the Desert Fishes Council and American Fisheries Society 
to list BCT in 1979, we conducted a status review of the subspecies 
(U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1984). We determined at that time that 
listing the BCT was ``warranted but precluded'' by other higher 
priority activities (January 20, 1984; 49 FR 2485).
    In 1992, we were again petitioned by the Desert Fishes Council and 
the Utah Wilderness Alliance to list BCT as threatened. We classified 
this as a ``second petition'' because it provided no new information, 
and listing the subspecies had already been determined to be 
``warranted but precluded.''
    On February 26, 1998, we received a petition, dated February 5, 
1998, from the Biodiversity Legal Foundation requesting that BCT be 
listed as threatened in those United States river and lake ecosystems 
where it presently exists, and to designate its occupied habitat as 
critical habitat within a reasonable period of time following the 
    The petitioners assert that the remaining genetically pure stocks 
of BCT occur almost exclusively in small, isolated streams in 
mountainous areas, and that it is common for today's BCT stocks to have 
some degree of hybridization with introduced, nonnative trout.
    The petitioners further assert that the BCT should be listed as 
threatened because the subspecies' present distribution and abundance 
are substantially reduced from historic conditions; remaining stocks 
are small, widely separated, and continue to decline in abundance; and 
the threats to the survival of BCT are pervasive and ongoing. The 
petitioners allege that threats to BCT include habitat destruction from 
logging and associated road building; adverse effects on habitat 
resulting from livestock grazing, mining, urban development, 
agricultural practices, and the operation of dams; historic and ongoing 
stocking of nonnative fish species that compete with or prey upon BCT; 
and excessive harvest by anglers.
    The petitioners also are of the opinion that programs to protect 
and restore BCT are inadequate or nonexistent, and that stocks of this 
fish continue to be threatened by a wide variety of ongoing and 
proposed activities.

Status Review

    On December 8, 1998, we published a 90-day finding for the BCT 
petition in the Federal Register (63 FR 67640). We found that the 
petition presented substantial information indicating that listing this 
subspecies may be warranted. At that time we initiated a review of the 
species' status within its historic range.
    The comment period for submission of additional information 
originally expired on January 7, 1999. However, this comment period was 
reopened on January 13, 1999 (64 FR 2167), and extended to February 12, 
1999. Numerous comments were received, evaluated, and incorporated, 
where appropriate, into this review. As this status review was being 
compiled, information was updated and reviewed to ensure that the 
review reflects the most accurate information available.

Geographic Range of Bonneville Cutthroat Trout

    Since the desiccation of ancient Lake Bonneville nearly 10,000 
years ago, the climate in the Bonneville Basin has remained relatively 
arid. Suitable conditions for cutthroat trout, such as adequate stream 
flow and water temperatures, range from higher elevations 
(approximately 8,000 to 11,000 feet above mean sea level) in small 
mountain streams and lakes within coniferous and deciduous forests and 
meadows to lower elevation (approximately 3,000 to 5,000 feet above 
mean sea level) alluvial desert river systems with sage-steppe 
grasslands and herbaceous riparian communities. For purposes of this 
status investigation, suitable BCT habitat within the subspecies' range 
is logically broken into five natural geographically and hydrologically 
distinct areas, henceforth referred to as Geographic Units (GU). The 
GUs are described in detail in the status review document available 
from Utah Ecological Services Field Office (see ADDRESSES). These GUs 
are generally categorized as--
    (a) Bear Lake--includes Bear Lake and several small streams 
draining into Bear Lake within Idaho and Utah;
    (b) Bear River--includes the upper Bear River draining the 
northwestern portion of the Uinta Mountains, the Smith's Fork and 
Thomas Fork watershed, the Cub River watershed, the Logan and Little 
Bear Rivers watershed, and others;
    (c) Northern Bonneville--includes the Weber, Ogden, and Jordan 
Rivers (Great Salt Lake) watershed and the Provo and Spanish Fork 
Rivers (Utah Lake) watersheds;
    (d) Western Bonneville--includes small streams draining both the 
east and west slopes of the Deep Creek Mountain range on the border of 
Utah and Nevada as well as Wheeler Peak (Great Basin National Park) and 
Mt. Mariah Wilderness Area (Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest) draining 
from the east slopes of the Snake Mountain range of southeastern 
Nevada, and Snake and Steptoe valleys; and
    (e) Southern Bonneville--includes Mt. Dutton and the Tusher 
Mountains and other drainages of the Sevier and Beaver River and 
northwestern portions

[[Page 51364]]

of the Virgin River draining from the Pine Valley Mountains north of 
St. George, Utah.


    Although some threats to BCT still occur, information reviewed in 
this status report indicates that the overall level of threats to the 
long-term persistence of BCT has decreased during the past 50 years. 
The majority of activities that caused the severe decline in BCT 
throughout its range appear to have occurred from 1850 to 1950. These 
activities included water development, commercial fish harvest, timber 
harvest, livestock grazing, urban development, and introduction of 
nonnative salmonids. Although most of these activities occur to some 
extent in different regions of the Bonneville Basin, there is no longer 
the same level of devastating impacts on BCT and its habitat that 
resulted in the wide-spread habitat destruction and BCT population 
decline of the late 1800s and early 1900s.


    Habitat degradation from multiple sources is a considerable threat 
to BCT populations in some areas. Livestock grazing has been 
specifically identified as one primary reason for habitat degradation. 
Improper livestock grazing has led to moderate to severe localized 
impacts on stream habitat and riparian areas. Indirectly, excessive 
fine sediment, resulting from poor upland watershed condition, affects 
water quality and instream habitat. More direct damage includes 
decreased bank stability and loss or destruction of riparian area.
    Road building can be a problem exacerbating sedimentation, bank 
instability, and loss of riparian area. Habitat damage from historic 
timber harvest has affected the long-term channel stability, substrate, 
and morphology in some streams, particularly in the mountainous areas 
where large timber stands were historically harvested for railroad and 
    Water development (diversions and dams) has irreversibly changed 
individual stream processes and hydrologic conditions in some 
drainages. Instream water diversion structures that dewater stream 
reaches, dams that impound water, and culverts that act as barriers to 
fish movement fragment or reduce available habitat and stream miles 
occupied for BCT. Throughout the deserts of the Bonneville Basin, 
humans compete with native wildlife for water. The overall impact of 
water development projects on BCT is nearly impossible to determine, 
but has no doubt been a large factor in the decline of native fish 
    Although some streams receive extensive recreational traffic 
(including hikers, anglers, camping, horseback riding, and ATVs) which 
can result in instream and riparian damage or indirect effects to water 
quality and hydrology where the activity is not adequately controlled, 
impacts from these activities tend to be localized and do not affect 
overall watershed conditions.
    Although some higher-profile areas are governed by extensive land-
use regulation administered by the Federal land management agencies, 
cumulative habitat impacts from different land-use activities remain a 
concern for BCT populations in high-traffic areas.


    Regulations in place to control fish harvest, fish stocking, and 
land-use incorporate an emphasis on the long-term persistence of BCT. 
Although considered a significant reason for the initial decline of 
BCT, fish harvest is no longer considered a threat to the long-term 
persistence of BCT.


    Whirling disease is caused by Myxobolus cerebralis, a metazoan 
parasite that penetrates head and spinal cartilage of young-of-year 
salmonids. Once into the cartilage, the parasite multiplies quickly, 
affecting equilibrium of the fish. This can cause the fish to swim 
erratically or to have difficulty feeding or avoiding predators. 
Whirling disease was introduced into North America in the late 1950s 
and has damaged primarily wild rainbow trout (RBT) populations where 
the parasite becomes established. Although other salmonids also may be 
infected, the extent of disease manifested in other salmonids has not 
been fully assessed.
    The life cycle of the parasite involves a robust spore that 
withstands freezing and desiccation. In addition, the spore persists 
for years or even decades and, therefore, is very difficult to 
eradicate from water systems. When ingested by a tiny common aquatic 
worm, Tubifex tubifex, the parasite transforms into its more fragile 
state that must infect young fish within several days or it will die 
(Whirling Disease Foundation 2000).
    Within the range of BCT, whirling disease has been confirmed in 
several major water systems. However, to date there have been no 
documented population declines of BCT attributable to whirling disease. 
At this point, it is unclear if such a decline will happen. Based on 
results of studies summarized in the 6th Annual Whirling Disease 
Symposium and based on conversations with State fisheries managers and 
fish health experts in the Bonneville Basin, the following are some 
general notes pertaining to whirling disease in cutthroat trout 
(Granath 2000).
    Spatial and temporal factors may play a role in the extent of 
damage to cutthroat populations from whirling disease. Timing of 
reproduction may influence extent of infection, if cutthroat larvae are 
hatched before or after the peak concentrations of the parasite. It has 
been further hypothesized that fluvial cutthroat trout may migrate to 
headwater reaches of streams to spawn, where hatched larvae may be 
either outside the range of contaminated reaches or amidst habitat 
conditions where the tubifex worms and spores may not or are less 
likely to accumulate in damaging or lethal concentrations. However, 
studies are preliminary and little can be predicted about the long-term 
impacts of whirling disease on cutthroat populations. One study 
suggests that cutthroat trout simply may develop less severe 
physiological disease compared to RBT.
    Overall, recent research on whirling disease has uncovered 
substantial information now being used in management and control of the 
spread of this disease. Federal, State, and private sport-fishing 
interests have invested great effort and funds in finding a way to 
eradicate, control, or cure whirling disease. Although not necessarily 
intended for the conservation of native cutthroat trout, ongoing 
research undoubtedly benefits these native populations as managers seek 
to sustain and protect wild nonnative fisheries. In addition to 
research, fisheries health programs are focused on frequent and 
comprehensive testing of natural water systems and hatchery facilities 
to ensure early detection of the parasite. Strict regulations on fish 
culture, transport, and angling have been implemented. Also, public 
education programs on whirling disease and preventing its spread are 
widespread throughout angling communities.

Inadequate Regulatory Mechanisms

    Stocking of RBT and other nonnative salmonids continues to be a 
potential threat. Although recent surveys and research indicate 
hybridization between BCT and other nonnative salmonids is not as 
prevalent as previously thought, the threat of hybridization remains in 
drainages where RBT are stocked in close proximity to pure BCT 
populations or where stocking of these

[[Page 51365]]

species prevents reintroduction or colonization of BCT. Although most 
States are focusing on the issue and some State stocking protocols have 
been changed to prevent stocking of nonnative salmonids into BCT 
streams, the success of proposed and implemented changes to reduce the 
threats from hybridization, competition, and predation of nonnative 
salmonids on BCT has yet to be seen.
    Many BCT populations are located on lands publicly owned and 
managed by the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), National Park Service (NPS), 
and Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Although some acute problems occur 
on lands managed by these agencies, public ownership provides some 
protection from development and guarantees public review of major 
activities which may adversely affect wildlife through compliance with 
the National Environmental Protection Act. In addition, some private 
citizens and local groups are getting involved in BCT conservation 
efforts in coordination with State and Federal agencies.
    Numerous Federal and State regulatory mechanisms exist that, if 
properly administered and implemented, protect the long-term 
persistence of BCT and its habitat. However, this is dependent on the 
ability of those agencies to devote adequate resources toward 
fulfilling their responsibilities to environmental protection. Where 
regulations are not adequately enforced, BCT can be adversely impacted.
    According to information collected for this review, the level of 
adequate Federal and State regulation varies among areas and among 
agencies, but generally has improved over the past 30 years. Although 
some problem areas still exist, the commitment from these agencies for 
the protection of environmental resources including BCT is greater than 
it has ever been. In addition, there is more collaboration between 
local communities, local governing entities, and State and Federal 
agencies, which allows more amicable resolution of land-use conflicts 
and better funding and commitment to conservation activities of BCT.

Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting its Continued Existence

    In order to respond to the petitioners' concern regarding the 
threat of genetic introgression between BCT and other trout species, we 
investigated the standards used by the various management agencies to 
determine pure BCT stocks suitable for reclamation and conservation 
    In the early 1900s, confusion regarding the physical description of 
pure BCT arose because of the extinction of BCT from the type locality 
in Utah Lake in the 1930s and subsequent confusing accounts. Early 
taxonomic distinctions were based solely on physical descriptions 
(Tanner and Hayes 1933; Behnke 1992). Reports of extinction from some 
well known locations and knowledge of widespread stocking of RBT and 
Yellowstone cutthroat trout (YCT) led some experts to speculate that 
BCT was extinct in its pure form (Tanner 1936; Cope 1955; Sigler and 
Miller 1963; Holden et al 1974). Such speculation became widely 
accepted because there were no accurate and accepted criteria to define 
pure BCT.
    In assessing levels of hybridization among species or subspecies, 
known ``pure'' or unhybridized samples must be available. In the case 
of BCT, some of the earliest speculation and reports on purity were 
based on inter-drainage or inter-basin phenotypic differences before 
genetic technology was developed. However, this kind of information can 
be misleading where phenotypic differences do not reflect genetic 
differences or speciation. It was not until the 1960s and 1970s, when a 
few BCT populations were found in extremely isolated or pristine 
conditions where introductions of nonnative species had not occurred, 
which wildlife managers were certain they had identified pure BCT, that 
managers began to develop a standard for BCT purity (Behnke 1988; 
Hickman 1978). In the 1970s, criteria were developed by which purity 
could be assessed (Hickman 1978). Soon after, genetic technology was 
applied to the question of purity (Wydoski et al. 1976, Martin et al. 
1985, Williams and Shiozawa 1989).
    Two main issues developed related to purity of BCT. The first was 
how to discern purity. The second was what level of purity warrants 
protection. Criteria and protocols to address these two separate but 
related issues continued to evolve over the past three decades as 
technological advances and new information became available on what 
constitutes pure BCT (Wydoski et al. 1976, Martin et al. 1985, Williams 
and Shiozawa 1989, Shiozawa et al. 1993, Toline et al. 1999). With 
shifts in understanding of the importance of local genetic adaptions, 
it became important to identify a critical level or range of 
hybridization or a conservation criterion by which important 
populations could be identified and protected (Toline and Lentsch 1998, 
UDWR 2000). With such a criterion, managers hoped to ensure that 
important BCT genetic information was not dismissed or eradicated 
because of low levels of hybridization or speculative data.
    In addition to genetic information, stocking records and 
biogeographic knowledge has been and continues to be used to assess the 
likelihood that a particular population is hybridized. It was 
originally suspected that where RBT or other cutthroat subspecies such 
as YCT were stocked, BCT were hybridized (Behnke and Zarn 1976, Sigler 
and Miller 1963; Holden et al 1974). However, with the development of 
recent techniques for genetic analysis, it has become apparent that 
many BCT populations have coexisted with RBT with extremely low or no 
levels of hybridization. In fact, recent genetic technology has proven 
invaluable in identifying pure populations previously suspected of 
hybridization (UDWR unpublished reports).
    Overall, managers have used all of these techniques as well as 
other information to make the best judgement as to the purity of a 
given population and its distribution within a given system. In an 
effort to ensure a standard assessment of purity in how BCT is managed, 
the State wildlife agencies in Utah, Wyoming, Idaho, and Nevada have 
worked together to describe protocols and criteria for evaluating 
purity and managing BCT for conservation (UDWR 2000). This effort 
represents a combination of management strategies and input from 
academic and species experts to ensure that the process is based on the 
best available information and sound biology.
    For the purposes of this status review, fish populations that 
State, Tribal, and Federal agency fisheries managers have designated as 
BCT, even though the precise genetic composition of each BCT population 
may not be completely described, are assumed to represent this 
subspecies unless specific physical, genetic, or behavioral information 
indicates otherwise.

Conservation Actions

    The States of Utah, Wyoming, Idaho, and Nevada, USFS, BLM, NPS, 
Tribal governments, Trout Unlimited, and other involved parties 
reported numerous ongoing projects that are completed or being 
completed for the protection and restoration of BCT and their habitats. 
In addition, each State wildlife agency has in place conservation 
plans, conservation agreements, or other such interagency cooperative 
efforts to ensure the long-term persistence of BCT. A range-wide 
Conservation Agreement was recently

[[Page 51366]]

finalized and includes all four State wildlife agencies as well as the 
Service, the USFS, BLM, Utah Reclamation Mitigation and Conservation 
Commission, and the NPS, with support from Trout Unlimited and other 
organizations. This agreement will improve coordination and 
effectiveness of conservation actions across State boundaries.
    Specific conservation actions are planned, discussed, and described 
at semi-annual inter-agency meetings of BCT experts (agency and 
academic). Originally convened to review actions described under the 
Utah conservation agreement for BCT, these meetings have expanded to 
include Wyoming, Idaho, and Nevada State agencies as well as Federal 
agencies. Aquatic managers and BCT experts review upcoming plans for 
conservation actions and describe actions implemented in the past field 
season. In addition, native cutthroat trout management is discussed and 
the group provides a forum for developing standards on different issues 
such as assessing purity, chemical treatments for restoration, brood 
source development, inter- and intra-basin transfers, and stocking 
    These meetings are attended by all four State wildlife management 
agencies as well as the main Federal land management agencies, Trout 
Unlimited, local academic experts, and private citizens active in BCT 
conservation. Funds are allocated from different sources including 
State sportfishing monies, Federal Aid in Sportfishing monies, and 
USFS, Great Basin National Park, and other Federal land management 
agency funds, and are administered cooperatively among involved 
agencies. Coordination among agencies and groups and increased funding 
has led to substantial success in implementing conservation efforts in 
every GU. Specific conservation actions implemented within drainages 
and GUs are described in the Status Review for the species.
    Overall, collaboration between local communities, local governing 
entities, and State and Federal agencies has increased substantially in 
comparison to past decades. This coordination allows more amicable 
resolution to land-use conflicts and better funding and commitment to 
conservation activities for BCT.


    We have compiled and analyzed the most recent and best scientific 
and commercial data available on BCT to complete the status review. 
This information included published and unpublished reports, 
manuscripts, books and data, comments, memorandums, letters, phone 
communications, e-mail correspondence, and information gathered at 
meetings. In addition, persons who are considered species experts on 
BCT were provided the opportunity to comment on the data used in this 
report to ensure they were the most accurate and updated data available 
and that they were interpreted accurately.
    Based on this analysis, the overall status of BCT has improved in 
every GU since the 1970s when researchers began to investigate the 
status of BCT for the purpose of its long-term conservation. Currently, 
BCT occupy a total of 1,372 kilometers (852 miles) of stream habitat 
and 28,352 hectares (70,059 acres) of lake habitat, with a total of 291 
populations. It is possible additional BCT populations may be 
discovered in streams which have not been recently surveyed or 
explored. This potential is greatest in the Bear River and Northern 
GUs, which contain extensive natural water systems that remain 
uninvestigated. Viable, self-sustaining BCT populations occur within 
all five GUs. Almost every major drainage within the five GUs supports 
pure BCT populations, either remnant or reintroduced.
    Although the numbers of extant BCT stocks are likely much lower 
than the historical number, they have increased by an order of 
magnitude or more in the past three decades. Based on information from 
early accounts of pioneer settlement and early descriptions of land-use 
and wildlife management, a noted decline in BCT populations occurred 
between 1850 and 1950. This decline was due to devastating impacts from 
land-use activities such as extensive water development, overharvest of 
fish through commercial industry, nonnative salmonid introductions, 
tie-hacking of timber, and improper livestock grazing. Although many of 
those threats have not been entirely eliminated, the devastating 
disregard for land and wildlife no longer occurs to the extent that it 
did between 1850 and 1950. In addition, most BCT populations are 
located on lands publicly owned and managed by the USFS, NPS, and BLM. 
Public ownership provides some element of protection from development 
and guarantees public review of major activities which may adversely 
affect wildlife through compliance with the National Environmental 
Policy Act and agency regulations.
    The improved status of BCT in the past 30 years can be attributed 
to increased sampling effort, improved technology for identification of 
pure populations, population expansion efforts (transplants and brood 
source development) that have resulted in establishment of additional 
BCT populations, and improved habitat and flow conditions in some 
streams. Because current management plans are operational and describe 
BCT conservation activities for future decades, it is likely that 
additional BCT populations will be identified, additional reintroduced 
BCT populations will become established, and stream habitat and flow 
conditions will continue to be improved. Thus, the status of BCT will 
likely continue to improve as surveys are completed and conservation 
activities are completed.
    Based on this analysis, as detailed in the status review document, 
the trajectory of BCT status within its native range is toward 
additional populations, reduced threats, and improved habitat 
conditions. Although some populations may be more impacted than others 
by future development, land-use, and stocking, there is currently no 
indication that BCT is in danger of extinction or likely to become so 
in the foreseeable future throughout all of its range or in any of the 
five GUs.
    Therefore, listing of the BCT as a threatened or endangered species 
under the Act is not warranted at this time.

References Cited

    A complete list of references cited in this notice is available 
from the Utah Ecological Services Field Office (see ADDRESSES).


    The primary author of this document is Yvette Converse (see 


    The authority for this action is the Endangered Species Act (16 
U.S.C. 1531 et seq.).

    Dated: September 28, 2001.
Marshall P. Jones, Jr.,
Acting Director, Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 01-24805 Filed 10-5-01; 8:45 am]