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The Mountain-Prairie Region


U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
134 Union Boulevard
Lakewood, Colorado 80228

September 9, 1998

Tom Bauer 505-248-6911
Diane Katzenberger 303-236-7917 ext 408



In an announcement today in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service did not see a biological need to list the Rio Grande cutthroat trout under the Endangered Species Act.

"So far, locally based conservation efforts have paid off to the extent the Fish and Wildlife Service biologists were able to identify 200 populations of this beautiful native trout," Babbitt said. "This opinion would not affect our ability to list this species in the future if populations decline to critical levels. Today I am hopeful about the future, and particularly heartened by the federal, state and local partnerships working to bring back the Rio Grande cutthroat in New Mexico and Colorado."

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will publish an opinion that a petition requesting the listing of the Rio Grande cutthroat trout does not contain substantial information that would suggest that listing under the Endangered Species Act may be warranted in an upcoming Federal Register.

The Service received the petition requesting that the fish be listed from a number of environmental groups, including the Southwest Center for Biological Diversity, Carson Forest Watch, Biodiversity Legal Foundation, Ancient Forest Rescue, and Southwest Trout, on February 25, 1998.

Responding to the petition, the Service reviewed the best available scientific information, coordinating its review with the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish and Colorado Division of Wildlife, to determine if populations of the fish were threatened to a degree that protection under the Endangered Species Act might be needed.

State resource agencies reported 200 populations of Rio Grande cutthroat trout; the petition cited 92 populations. Colorado and New Mexico also have management efforts in place to ensure the species’ survival. These efforts include removing non-native species from historical cutthroat habitat and reintroducing native cutthroat to these streams.

The Rio Grande cutthroat trout is a subspecies of the cutthroat trout and shares the characteristic red or orange slash mark under the lower jaw that has given the species its name. The fish can be identified by a unique pattern of black spots on its sides and tail, with concentrations of the spots toward the tail. Other cutthroat trout have black spots more evenly distributed on their bodies.

The Rio Grande cutthroat, one of New Mexico’s two native trout, is found primarily in small headwater streams of the Rio Grande, Pecos River, and Canadian River drainages in northern New Mexico, and the Rio Grande drainage in Colorado.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting, and enhancing fish and wildlife and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 93-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System comprised of more than 500 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands, and other special management areas. It also operates 66 national fish hatcheries and 78 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 governments with their conservation efforts.

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