|The Mountain-Prairie Region|
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
134 Union Boulevard
Lakewood, Colorado 80228
|Contact: Joan Jewett, 503-231-6211
Diane Katzenberger, 303-236-4578 (MT)
Public Comment Sought on Critical Habitat for Bull Trout
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is providing the public with another opportunity to comment on its proposed and final critical habitat designations for bull trout in the Columbia and Klamath river basins.
Comments, scientific and economic data and all other relevant information will be accepted until June 24, 2005. The public may comment simultaneously on the Service’s November 29, 2002, critical habitat proposal and on its October 6, 2004, final critical habitat designation.
The Service intends to use the information in a re-evaluation of critical habitat for the Columbia River Basin and Klamath River Basin populations of bull trout, which are listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act.
On November 29, 2002, the Service proposed to designate a total of 18,471 miles of streams and 532,721 acres of lakes and reservoirs in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana as critical habitat for bull trout. On October 6, 2004 – following seven months of public comment and after considering an economic analysis and areas of adequate conservation management – the Service issued a final critical habitat designation of approximately 1,748 miles of streams and 61,235 acres of lakes and reservoirs in Oregon, Washington and Idaho.
The 2004 designation will remain in effect pending this review, which is expected to be completed this fall.
On December 14, 2004, the Alliance for the Wild Rockies filed a legal complaint challenging the adequacy of the final designation and the exclusions that were made. The ESA allows the Secretary of the Interior to exclude any area from critical habitat if she determines that the benefits of excluding it outweigh the benefits of including it, unless the exclusion would result in the extinction of the species. Economic impacts and existing species protection plans are among the factors considered when making exclusions.
The 2004 economic analysis estimated the potential economic effects of the proposed critical habitat designation would range from $200 million to $260 million over 10 years.
During its re-evaluation of critical habitat for bull trout in the Columbia and Klamath river basins, the Service will not conduct another economic analysis, but the agency is seeking information on whether the 2004 economic analysis identified all state and local economic costs and economic benefits attributable to the critical habitat designation.
The Service also is seeking specific information on the amount and distribution of bull trout habitat and why those particular amounts and distributions are essential to the conservation of the species; the benefits of including areas that were excluded; the benefits of excluding areas that were included; any previously unidentified impacts of the critical habitat designation; whether military lands with resource protection plans that benefit bull trout should be excluded; and whether our approach to designating critical habitat could be improved or modified to provide for greater public participation and understanding.
The full range of information the Service is seeking in detailed in today’s Federal Register notice announcing the opening of a 30-day public comment period.
Comments may be mailed to John Young, Bull Trout Coordinator, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Ecological Services, 911 NE 11th Avenue, Portland, Oregon 97232, or faxed to 503-231-6243, or emailed to R1BullTroutCH@fws.gov.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which encompasses 545 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resources offices and 81 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign and Native American tribal governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Assistance program, which distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.
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