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The Mountain-Prairie Region


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

August 13, 1999
Contacts: Kemper McMaster 406-449-5225
Lori Nordstrom 406-449-5225
Lynn Kaeding 406-582-0717

Cherry Creek Cutthroat Trout Not Listable Under the Endangered Species Act

The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today that the Cherry Creek cutthroat trout is not listable under the Endangered Species Act as a distinct population segment of the Yellowstone cutthroat trout. The Service made the determination in response to a petition filed by the Friends of the Cherry Creek Cutthroat to emergency list the fish under the Endangered Species Act.

The petitioner asserts that the Cherry Creek cutthroat trout should be considered a distinct population segment of the Yellowstone cutthroat trout because it: has evolved in a harsh environment; is resistant to whirling disease; successfully competes with non-native species; and is genetically pure. However, the petition did not provide any scientific data to substantiate these conclusions and the Service could find no evidence to support the claims.

"In order to be listed as a distinct population segment, it must be obvious that there is a geographical separation and that the separation has created an evolutionary uniqueness in that population," said Ralph Morgenweck, Director of the Service’s Mountain-Prairie Region. "To warrant listing, that unique population must also be in trouble," said Morgenweck. "The Service has determined the cutthroat did not meet those criteria."

The Service does not consider this population of Yellowstone cutthroat unique because fish stocked from this same strain are found in numerous other mountain lakes with similar conditions. The Yellowstone cutthroat trout in Cherry Lake and its outflow originated from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Park’s Yellowstone River Trout Hatchery in Big Timber. Fish from this hatchery are released in mountain lakes throughout much of Montana east of the Continental Divide. Yellowstone cutthroats are not considered native to Cherry Creek and Cherry Lake since the area is well outside the fish’s historic range (Yellowstone and Snake River drainages). Cherry Creek flows into the known historic habitat (i.e., the Madison River) of the westslope (Oncorhynchus clarki lewisi) subspecies of cutthroat trout. The petitioners are concerned about a Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks project that wouldremove non-native trout so that westslope cutthroat trout can be introduced into the Cherry Lake drainage.

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 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, 64 fish and wildlife management assistance offices 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. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state wildlife agencies.

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