[Federal Register: September 3, 2002 (Volume 67, Number 170)]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR
Fish and Wildlife Service
50 CFR Part 17
Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants: Notice of Intent
To Prepare a Status Review for the Westslope Cutthroat Trout
AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.
ACTION: Notice of Intent.
SUMMARY: We, the Fish and Wildlife Service, announce initiation of a
new status review for the westslope cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus
clarki lewisi) in the United States, pursuant to a recent Court order
and the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended. We request
additional data, information, technical critiques, and relevant
comments that may be available for this species.
DATES: Data, information, technical critiques, and comments must be
submitted by November 4, 2002 to be considered in the status review and
ADDRESSES: Comments should be submitted to Westslope Cutthroat
Comments, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2900 4th Avenue North, Room
301, Billings, MT 59102. The amended petition and its bibliography, our
initial status review document and petition finding, related Federal
Register notices, the recent Court Order and Judgement and Memorandum
Opinion, and other pertinent information are available for inspection,
during normal business hours and by appointment, at that address. The
above information also may be obtained at our Internet Web site <http:/
/mountain-prairie.fws.gov/endspp/fish/wct/. Comments may be
submitted electronically to <email@example.com.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Lynn R. Kaeding at e-mail (Lynn--
Kaeding@fws.gov) or telephone (406) 582-0717.
Section 4(b)(3)(B) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (Act), as
amended (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 the petition contains
substantial information, the Act requires that we initiate a status
review for the species and publish a 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. Notice of such 12-month findings
are to be published promptly in the Federal Register.
On June 6, 1997, we received a formal petition to list the
westslope cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarki lewisi) as threatened
throughout its range and designate critical habitat for this subspecies
pursuant to the Act. The petitioners were American Wildlands,
Clearwater Biodiversity Project, Idaho Watersheds Project, Inc.,
Montana Environmental Information Center, the Pacific Rivers Council,
Trout Unlimited's Madison-Gallatin Chapter, and Mr. Bud Lilly.
The westslope cutthroat trout (WCT) is 1 of 14 subspecies of
cutthroat trout native to interior regions of western North America
(Behnke 1992). Cutthroat trout owe their common name to the distinctive
red slash that occurs just below both sides of the lower jaw. Adult WCT
typically exhibit bright yellow, orange, and red colors, especially
among males during the spawning season. Characteristics of WCT that
distinguish this fish from the other cutthroat subspecies include a
pattern of irregularly shaped spots on the body that has few spots
below the lateral line, except near the tail; a unique number of
chromosomes; and other genetic and morphological traits that appear to
reflect a distinct evolutionary lineage (Behnke 1992).
The historic range of WCT is considered the most geographically
widespread among the 14 subspecies of inland cutthroat trout (Behnke
Although not known precisely, the historic distribution of WCT in
streams and lakes can be summarized as follows--West of the Continental
Divide, the subspecies is native to several major drainages of the
Columbia River basin, including the upper Kootenai River drainage from
its headwaters in British Columbia, through northwest Montana, and into
northern Idaho; the Clark Fork River drainage of Montana and Idaho
downstream to the falls on the Pend Oreille River near the Washington-
British Columbia border; the Spokane River above Spokane Falls and into
Idaho's Coeur d'Alene and St. Joe River drainages; and the Salmon and
Clearwater River drainages of Idaho's Snake River basin. The historic
distribution of WCT also includes disjunct areas draining the east
slope of the Cascade Mountains in Washington (Methow River and Lake
Chelan drainages), the John Day River drainage in northeastern Oregon,
and the headwaters of the Kootenai River and several other, disjunct
regions in British Columbia. East of the Continental Divide, the
historic distribution of WCT includes the headwaters of the South
Saskatchewan River drainage (U.S. and Canada); the entire Missouri
River drainage upstream from Fort Benton, Montana, and extending into
northwest Wyoming; and the headwaters of the Judith, Milk, and Marias
Rivers, which join the Missouri River downstream from Fort Benton.
Today, various WCT stocks remain in each of these major river basins in
Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, and Wyoming.
On July 2, 1997, we notified the petitioners that our Final Listing
Priority Guidance, published in the December 5, 1996, Federal Register
(61 FR 64425), designated the processing of new listing petitions as
being of lower priority than completion of emergency listings and
processing of pending proposed listings. A backlog of listing actions,
as well as personnel and budget restrictions in Region 6 (Mountain-
Prairie Region), which was assigned responsibility for the WCT
petition, prevented our staff from working on a 90-day finding for the
On January 25, 1998, the petitioners provided an amended petition
to list the WCT as threatened throughout its range and designate
critical habitat for the subspecies. The amended petition contained
additional new information in support of the requested action. Because
substantial new information was provided, we treated the amended
petition as a new petition.
On June 10, 1998, we published a notice in the Federal Register (63
FR 31691) of a 90-day finding that the amended WCT petition provided
substantial information indicating that the requested action may be
warranted and immediately began a comprehensive status review of WCT
(U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1999). In the notice, we asked for
data, information, technical critiques, comments, or questions relevant
to the amended petition.
In response to our June 10, 1998, Federal Register notice, we
received information on WCT from State game and fish departments, the
U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, tribal governments, and
private corporations, as well as private citizens, organizations, and
other entities (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1999). That information
indicated WCT presently occur in about 4,275 tributaries or stream
reaches that collectively encompass more than 23,000 linear miles
(36,800 kilometers) of stream habitat (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
1999). Those WCT stocks are distributed among 12 major drainages and 62
component watersheds in the Columbia, Missouri, and Saskatchewan River
basins. In addition, WCT were determined to occur naturally in 6 lakes
totaling about 72,900 hectares (180,000 acres) in Idaho and Washington,
and in at least 20 lakes totaling 2,165 hectares (5,347 acres) in
Glacier National Park in Montana. The status review also revealed that
most of the habitat for extant WCT stocks lies on lands administered by
Federal agencies, particularly the U.S. Forest Service (U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service 1999). Moreover, most of the strongholds for WCT
stocks occur within roadless or wilderness areas or national parks, all
of which afford considerable protection to WCT. In addition, there are
numerous Federal and State regulatory mechanisms that, if properly
administered and implemented, protect WCT and their habitats throughout
the range of the subspecies.
On April 14, 2000, we published a notice in the Federal Register
(65 FR 20120) of our 12-month finding that the WCT is not likely to
become a threatened or endangered species within the foreseeable
future. We found that, although the overall WCT population has been
reduced from historic levels and extant stocks of this subspecies face
threats in several areas of the historic range, the magnitude and
imminence of those threats are small when considered in the context of
the widespread distribution and current status of the overall WCT
population. Therefore, we concluded that listing of the WCT as a
threatened or endangered species under the Act was not warranted at
On October 23, 2000, plaintiffs filed, in the U.S. District Court
for the District of Columbia, a suit alleging four claims. Plaintiffs
alleged that our consideration of existing regulatory mechanisms was
arbitrary. Plaintiffs further claimed that our consideration of
hybridization as a threat to WCT was arbitrary because, while
identifying hybridization as a threat to WCT, we relied on a draft
Intercross policy (61 FR 4710) to include hybridized WCT in the total
WCT population considered for listing under the Act. Plaintiffs' third
claim averred that we arbitrarily considered the threats to the trout
posed by the geographic isolation of some WCT stocks and the loss of
some WCT life-history forms. Finally, plaintiffs claimed that we failed
to account for the threat of whirling disease and other important
factors, and that our decision to not list the WCT as threatened was
arbitrary and capricious. In subsequent oral argument, plaintiffs
conceded that their strongest argument, and the one from which their
other concerns stemmed, was that we included hybridized fish in the WCT
population considered for listing under the Act, while also recognizing
hybridization as a threat to the subspecies.
On March 31, 2002, the U.S. District Court for the District of
Columbia found that our listing determination for WCT did not reflect a
reasoned assessment of the Act's statutory listing factors on the basis
of the best available science. The Court remanded the listing decision
to us with the order that we reconsider whether to list WCT as a
threatened subspecies, and that in so doing we evaluate the threat of
hybridization as it bears on the Act's statutory listing factors.
Specifically, the Court ordered us to determine--(1) the current
distribution of WCT, taking into account the prevalence of
hybridization; (2) whether the WCT population is an endangered or
threatened subspecies because of hybridization; and (3) if existing
regulatory mechanisms are adequate to address threats posed by
hybridizing, nonnative fishes.
The Court also pointed out that the draft Intercross policy (61 FR
4710) in no way indicates what degree of hybridization would threaten
WCT, or that the existing levels of hybridization do not currently
threaten WCT. Furthermore, the Court ruled that plaintiffs would have
us assert a scientifically based conclusion about the extent to which
it is appropriate to include hybrid WCT stocks and stocks of unknown
genetic characteristics in the WCT population considered for
listing. We are particularly interested in receiving data, information,
technical critiques, and relevant comments that will help us address
this and other issues raised by the Court.
Request for Information
We are soliciting comments from all interested parties regarding
the status of this species. We are particularly interested in receiving
information that will help us address the issues outlined above.
Behnke, R.J. 1992. Native trout of western North America. American
Fisheries Society Monograph 6.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 1999. Status review for westslope
cutthroat trout in the United States. Regions 1 and 6. Available at our
Web site (see ADDRESSES section).
The primary author of this document is Lynn R. Kaeding, Chief,
Branch of Native Fishes Management, Montana Fish and Wildlife
Management Assistance Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 4052
Bridger Canyon Road, Bozeman, MT 59715.
The authority for this action is the Endangered Species Act (16
U.S.C. 1531 et seq.).
Dated: August 12, 2002.
Director, Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 02-22303 Filed 8-30-02; 8:45 am]
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