[Federal Register: September 20, 2002 (Volume 67, Number 183)]
[Proposed Rules]               
[Page 59241-59243]
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; 90-Day Finding on 
a Petition To List the California Golden Trout as Endangered

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of 90-day petition finding and initiation of status 


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce a 
90-day finding on a petition to list the California golden trout 
(Oncorhynchus mykiss aguabonita) under the Endangered Species Act of 
1973, as amended (Act). We find that the petition presents substantial 
information indicating that the listing of the California golden trout 
may be warranted. Therefore, we are initiating a status review to 
determine if the petitioned action is warranted. To ensure that the 
review is comprehensive, we are soliciting information and data 
regarding this subspecies.

DATES: The finding announced in this document was made September 12, 
2002. To be considered in the 12-month finding for this petition, 
comments and information should be submitted to us by November 19, 

ADDRESSES: Data, information, comments, or questions concerning this 
petition should be submitted to the Field Supervisor (Attn: California 
golden trout), Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office, 2800 Cottage Way, 
Room W-2605, Sacramento, CA 95825. The petition finding, supporting 
data, and comments will be available for public inspection, by 
appointment, during normal business hours at the above address.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Susan Moore or Jennifer Bain at the 
Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office (see ADDRESSES above), or at 916/



    Section 4(b)(3)(A) of the Endangered Species Act (Act) of 1973, as 
amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), requires that we make a finding on 
whether a petition to list, delist, or reclassify a species, or to 
revise a critical habitat designation, presents substantial scientific 
or commercial information to demonstrate that the petitioned action may 
be warranted. This finding is to be based on all information available 
to us at the time the finding is made. To the maximum extent 
practicable, this finding is to be made within 90 days of the receipt 
of the petition, and the notice of the finding is to be published 
promptly in the Federal Register. If the finding is that substantial 
information was presented, we are required to promptly commence a 
review of the status of the involved species, if one has not already 
been initiated, under our internal candidate assessment process. After 
completing the status review, we will issue an additional finding (the 
12-month finding) determining whether listing is, in fact, warranted.
    On October 23, 2000, we received a petition dated October 13, 2000, 
to list the California golden trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss aguabonita) as 
endangered. The petition was submitted by Trout Unlimited. The letter 
clearly identified itself as a petition, and contained the name, 
signature, and address of the party submitting the petition. The 
petition requested that we list the California golden trout as an 
endangered species on an emergency basis, and that critical habitat be 
designated concurrent with listing. Included in the petition was 
supporting information relating to the subspecies' taxonomy and 
ecology, adequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms for the subspecies, 
historic and current distribution, present status, and potential causes 
of decline.
    On February 8, 2001, Trout Unlimited sent a Notice of Intent to sue 
the Service for violating the Act by failing to make a 90-day finding 
as to whether the petition to list the California golden trout presents 
substantial information indicating that listing may be warranted. On 
November 29, 2001, Trout Unlimited filed a complaint in Federal 
District Court alleging we had violated the Act by failing to make a 
90-day finding for their petition to list the California golden trout. 
On June 21, 2002, the court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and 
ordered us to complete the 90-day finding by September 19, 2002.
    The common name golden trout is due to its brilliant gold color on 
the lower sides and red orange coloring on the belly, cheeks, and 
central lateral band. Behnke (1992) describes the California golden 
trout as a subspecies of the rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss), 
though it is more closely related to the interior redband subspecies of 
O. mykiss than the coastal rainbow subspecies that now dominates most 
drainages in the southern Sierra. It is believed that the California 
golden trout and Little Kern golden trout (O.m. whitei) evolved from an 
invasion of sea-run rainbow trout 20,000 years ago (Stephens 2001). 
Isolations between drainages resulted in the independent evolution of 
the subspecies (Behnke 1992).
    California golden trout have historically been found in the 
southern Sierra Nevada in Golden Trout Creek, its tributaries, and the 
upper reach and tributaries of the South Fork of the Kern River. The 
Golden Trout Creek watershed is 155 square kilometers (60 square 
miles). Golden Trout Creek drainage begins around elevation 3,292 
meters (m) (10,800 feet (ft)) and extends to 2,134 m (7,000 ft) 
elevation at the confluence of Golden Trout Creek and the Kern River. 
Volcano Falls, just upstream of the confluence of Golden Trout Creek 
and the Kern River, acts as a barrier to upstream migrating fish. The 
South Fork of the Kern River begins around elevation 3,170 m (10,400 
ft) at Mulkey Meadows and continues until it reaches Isabella Reservoir 
at elevation 794 m (2,605 ft). The petition states that the historic 
downstream limit of California golden trout was probably the gorge 
section of the river close to the present day Dome Land Wilderness. 
Currently, California golden trout on the South Fork of the Kern River 
are limited to the reach above the lowest artificial fish barrier, the 
Schaeffer barrier. However, this barrier has proven to be ineffective, 
and hybrid and non-native brown trout (Salmo trutta) have been found 
upstream of this barrier. California golden trout have been widely 
transplanted outside of their historic range. However, the petition 
states that the only area where non-hybridized California golden trout 
occur is within the Golden Trout Creek and the South Fork of the Kern 
    The petitioners cited four threats to the California golden trout. 
The three major threats include: (1) Hybridization with stocked rainbow 
trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss); (2) competition with non-native brown 
trout; and (3) habitat degradation from cattle (Bos

[[Page 59242]]

taurus) grazing. The fourth threat identified by the petitioners was 
inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms. Although the petitioners 
acknowledge that Federal and State agencies have made some attempts to 
address the problem of California golden trout declines, such measures 
and strategies have yet to improve overall subspecies survival.
    The petition states that hybridization with rainbow trout is the 
most immediate and destructive threat that the California golden trout 
faces today. In Golden Trout Creek watershed, fish stocking has 
occurred in the historically fishless headwater lakes. These lakes were 
stocked with what has recently been determined as hybrid California 
golden trout broodstock from Cottonwood Lakes. Historically, the South 
Fork Kern River, or general vicinity, has been stocked with rainbow 
trout, hybridized golden trout, brown trout, and brook trout 
(Salvelinus fontinalis). The petition cites that in the Golden Trout 
Creek watershed, hybridized fish were present in some of the headwater 
lakes and had moved into Stokes Stringer, a tributary of Golden Trout 
Creek. The petition assumed that hybridized California golden trout 
also had moved into some of the other tributaries of Golden Trout 
Creek. A report by Cordes et al. (2001) examined the genetics of 
California golden trout populations in the headwaters of Golden Trout 
Creek. Trout with what are presumed to be rainbow trout alleles (genes) 
were found at low frequencies in two tributaries and five different 
locations of Golden Trout Creek. Prior to this study, hybridized 
California golden trout had not been found in Golden Trout Creek. In 
the South Fork Kern River watershed, the petition states that hybrid 
California golden trout were present between Schaeffer Barrier and 
Templeton Barrier and in Movie Stringer. The reach of the South Fork 
Kern River above Ramshaw Barrier was believed to contain pure 
California golden trout. However, the Cordes et al. (2001) report found 
that low frequencies of what are assumed to be rainbow trout alleles 
occurred in fish collected from the South Fork Kern River above the 
Ramshaw Barrier. Currently, the only known pure California golden trout 
inhabit a tributary to Golden Trout Creek, headwater streams of the 
South Fork Kern River (S. Stephens, California Department of Fish and 
Game (CDFG), pers. comm., 2002). Given this genetic data, it appears 
that only a small amount of California golden trout are genetically 
pure. The degree of hybridization in the current range of the 
California golden trout is not yet fully understood. However, recent 
data suggest it is more widespread than stated in the petition.
    The petition suggests that competition for resources with non-
native brown trout and rainbow trout, and predation by brown trout, is 
a threat to the California golden trout. Brown trout prey on all life 
stages of the California golden trout and can be found in about 230 
kilometers (143 miles) of historic California golden trout habitat 
including the area between Templeton Barrier and Schaeffer Barrier 
(Stephens 2001). The CDFG and Inyo National Forest have made repeated 
efforts to eradicate brown trout from the California golden trout range 
by using piscicides (pesticide that is specific for fish) and then 
restocking the areas with California golden trout. They are continuing 
to investigate the current distribution of brown trout in the watershed 
(United States Forest Service (USFS) 2002a).
    The petition lists habitat degradation due to livestock grazing as 
a threat to the California golden trout. Grazing along stream channels 
affects aquatic habitat by reducing vegetation, changing the width/
depth ratio, adding sediment to the channel, and lowering the water 
table (Armour et al. 1991). Over time, the USFS has limited the number 
of cattle and duration of time on allotments in the current range of 
the California golden trout, but even with fewer cattle, degradation to 
the riparian zone continues (Knapp and Matthews 1996). In a study done 
by Knapp and Matthews (1996), livestock grazing was found to have 
negative effects on California golden trout populations. Livestock 
grazing can change and reduce vegetation, and widen and collapse banks 
(Armour et al. 1991). California golden trout prefer undercut banks and 
aquatic vegetation (Knapp and Dudley 1990; Mathews 1996a) and tend to 
avoid bare and collapsed banks (Matthews 1996b).
    Four allotments are present in the range of the California golden 
trout. Beginning in the summer of 2001, the USFS decided to rest the 
Templeton and Whitney allotments from grazing for a period of 10 years. 
At the end of the 10-year period, an analysis will be completed to 
determine if grazing should be resumed, eliminated from the allotments, 
or if resting the allotments should continue (USFS 2001). A monitoring 
strategy is being developed by the Inyo National Forest to determine 
the rate of recovery of the watershed (USFS 2002b). The area will be 
allowed to naturally restore itself with some small amount of active 
restoration by the USFS (D. Hubbs, USFS, pers. comm., 2002). Portions 
of the other allotments, Monache and Mulkey, are still being actively 
grazed. These allotments also will be monitored under the monitoring 
strategy being developed by the USFS and compared to the Templeton and 
Whitney allotments.
    The petition states there are inadequate regulatory mechanisms to 
protect the California golden trout. It also notes that there is an 
interagency Conservation Strategy for the Volcano Creek Golden Trout 
signed by CDFG, the Service, and USFS (USFS 1999). However, the 
Conservation Strategy does not meet the requirements set forth in our 
Draft Policy for Evaluation of Conservation Efforts When Making Listing 
Decisions (PECE Policy) (65 FR 37102). Since we received the petition, 
a draft Implementation Plan for the California Golden Trout 
Conservation Strategy (Implementation Plan) dated May 15, 2002, has 
been prepared by USFS, CDFG, Trout Unlimited, and California Trout. The 
Implementation Plan has addressed many of the concerns with the 
Conservation Strategy identified in the petition, but still does not 
address all of the criteria identified in our PECE Policy. It is 
unclear from the Implementation Plan how many of the tasks have a high 
level of certainty that necessary funding is provided. Also, while 
monitoring is a part of all tasks, the Implementation Plan does not 
have quantifiable, scientifically valid parameters to demonstrate 
achievement of objectives and effectiveness of the conservation tasks.
    We have reviewed the petition, the literature cited in the 
petition, and other literature and information available in our files. 
On the basis of best scientific and commercial information, we find the 
petition presents substantial information that listing this subspecies 
may be warranted. The main threat to the California golden trout is 
hybridization. Competition with non-native brown trout and habitat 
degradation due to cattle grazing, in combination with the threat of 
hybridization, place the California golden trout at risk. The current 
draft Implementation Plan is lacking the criteria necessary to improve 
the subspecies's status enough to make listing unnecessary.
    We have reviewed the available information to determine if the 
existing and foreseeable threats pose an emergency. We determined that 
an emergency listing is not warranted at this time. However, if at any 
time we determine that emergency listing of the California golden trout 
is warranted, we will seek to initiate an emergency listing. The 
petitioners also requested

[[Page 59243]]

that critical habitat be designated for this subspecies. We always 
consider the need for critical habitat designation when listing 
species. If the 12-month finding determines that listing the California 
golden trout is warranted, then the designation of critical habitat 
will be addressed in the subsequent proposed rule.

Public Information Solicited

    When we make a finding that substantial information exists to 
indicate that listing a species may be warranted, we are required to 
promptly commence a review of the status of the species. To ensure that 
the status review is complete and based on the best available 
scientific and commercial information, we are soliciting information on 
the California golden trout. We request any additional information, 
comments, and suggestions from the public, other concerned governmental 
agencies, the scientific community, industry, or any other interested 
parties concerning the status of the California golden trout. We are 
seeking information regarding historic and current distribution, the 
subspecies' biology and ecology, ongoing conservation measures for the 
subspecies and its habitat, and threats to the subspecies and its 
    If you wish to comment, you may submit your comments and materials 
concerning this finding to the Field Supervisor (see ADDRESSES 
section). Our practice is to make comments, including names and home 
addresses of respondents, available for public review during regular 
business hours. Respondents may request that we withhold a respondent's 
identity, as allowable by law. If you wish us to withhold your name or 
address, you must state this request prominently at the beginning of 
your comment. However, we will not consider anonymous comments. To the 
extent consistent with applicable law, we will make all submissions 
from organizations or businesses, and from individuals identifying 
themselves as representatives or officials of organizations or 
businesses, available for public inspection in their entirety. Comments 
and materials received will be available for public inspection, by 
appointment, during normal business hours at the above address.

References Cited

Armour, C.L., D.A. Duff, W. Elmore. 1991. The effects of livestock 
grazing on riparian and stream ecosystems. Fisheries 16(1):7-11.
Behnke, R.J. 1992. Native trout of the western North America. 
American Fisheries Society Monograph 6. Pages 162-174, 187-192.
Cordes, J.F., M.A. Blumberg, G.A.E. Gall, B. May. 2001. Genetic 
status of California golden trout populations in the headwaters of 
Golden Trout Creek. Report to the Threatened Trout Committee, 
California Department of Fish and Game. 40 pp.
Knapp, R.A. and T.L. Dudley. 1990. Growth and longevity of golden 
trout, Oncorhynchus aguabonita, in their native streams. California 
Fish and Game 76(3):161-173.
Knapp, R.A. and K. Matthews. 1996. Livestock grazing, golden trout, 
and streams in the Golden Trout Wilderness, California: Impacts and 
management implications. North American Journal of Fisheries 
Management 16:805-820.
Mathews, K.R. 1996a. Diel movement and habitat use of California 
golden trout in the Golden Trout Wilderness, California. 
Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 125:78-86.
Mathews, K.R. 1996b. Habitat selection movement patterns of 
California golden trout in degraded and recovering stream sections 
in the Golden Trout Wilderness, California. North American Journal 
of Fisheries Management 16:579-590.
Stephens, S.J. 2001. Draft-Biology, management and threats to the 
California golden trout. California Department of Fish and Game. 71 
United States Forest Service (USFS). 1999. Conservation strategy for 
the Volcano Creek golden trout. Inyo National Forest, California 
Department of Fish and Game, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 18 
United States Forest Service (USFS). 2001. Decision notice and 
finding of no significant impact, Templeton and Whitney grazing 
allotments. Inyo National Forest, Bishop, California. 10 pp. + 
United States Forest Service (USFS). 2002a. Draft implementation 
plan for the California golden trout conservation strategy. Inyo 
National Forest, California Department of Fish and Game, and U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service. 23 pp. + appendices.
United States Forest Service (USFS). 2002b. Draft monitoring 
strategy Whitney and Templeton grazing allotments. Inyo National 
Forest, Bishop, California. 10 pp.


    The primary author of this document is Jennifer Bain, Sacramento 
Fish and Wildlife Office (see ADDRESSES section).


    The authority for this action is the Endangered Species Act of 
1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.).

    Dated: September 12, 2002.
Steve Williams,
Director, Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 02-23941 Filed 9-19-02; 8:45 am]