Monday, September 15, 2014
What's New in the New West
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The Obama administration announced Wednesday it wants five western states to limit access and usage of wastersheds to protect the bull trout, a native, wide-ranging fish in the West. "It means that we're going to use the scientific recommendations rather than the political recommendations to determine what's best for critical habitat for bull trout," said Jack Williams, senior scientist for the conservation group Trout Unlimited. The bull trout is nothing more than a fish. The spotted owl is nothing more than a winged-eating machine. Does it make sense to pile millions of dollars into protecting these creatures? If approved, bull trout critical habitat would go from 3,780 to 22,679 stream miles and 110,364 to 533,426 acres of lakes and reservoirs in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Nevada and Montana. The Forest Service, meanwhile, estimates the increased consultation will increase its workload by 10 to 15 percent during reviews of proposed actions in the Northwest alone. In case you were wondering, that means more jobs and more hours. And yes, more money spent protecting the environment. By the way, it would come at a cost of between $100 and $140 million over the next 20 years, the government said.

Bull Trout Finding Some Western Love

The Obama administration announced Wednesday it wants five western states to limit access and usage of wastersheds to protect the bull trout, a native, wide-ranging fish in the West.

“It means that we’re going to use the scientific recommendations rather than the political recommendations to determine what’s best for critical habitat for bull trout,” said Jack Williams, senior scientist for the conservation group Trout Unlimited.

If approved, bull trout critical habitat would go from 3,780 to 22,679 stream miles and 110,364 to 533,426 acres of lakes and reservoirs in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Nevada and Montana. reports Matthew Perusch from the Oregonian. The Forest Service, meanwhile, estimates the increased consultation will increase its workload by 10 to 15 percent during reviews of proposed actions in the Northwest alone. In case you were wondering, that means more jobs and more hours. And yes, more money spent protecting the environment.

By the way, it would come at a cost of between $100 and $140 million over the next 20 years, the government said.

The bull trout is nothing more than a fish. The spotted owl is nothing more than a winged-eating machine. Does it make sense to pile millions of dollars into protecting these creatures?

Bull trout are listed as a threatened species under the U.S. Endangered Species Act throughout their range in the contiguous United States. Bull trout are used as a management indicator species for several national forests, including Boise National Forest and Sawtooth National Forest (Sawtooth National Recreation Area). Bull trout reproduction requires cold water and very low amounts of silt, both of which are negatively impacted by road building and logging. Additionally, the bull trout’s need to migrate throughout river systems may be hindered by impassible fish barriers such as dams.

“It’s kind of like putting a big yellow caution flag along these streams and lakes that are habitat for bull trout,” Williams, said.

After the species was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1999, the federal government was obligated to protect areas the fish needs to recover.

If you are passionate about the issue, drive to La Grande, Oregon, Feb. 4 for a meeting from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the BlueMountain Conference Center, 404 12th Street.

Comments also can be mailed to Public Comments Processing, Attn:
RIN 1018-AW88; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 222; Arlington, VA 22203.

Federal agencies are already obligated to protect many of the same waterways because of federal clean water laws and the presence of endangered salmon or steelhead.

But a critical habitat designation raises the bar, said Michael Garrity, executive director of the Montana group Alliance for the Wild Rockies, which sued the government to create the designation.

Logging on a hillside, for instance, could cloud the trout stream below with sediment.

“If it negatively impacts the streams, those would no longer be allowed,” Garrity said.

The agency is accepting comments on the proposed change until March 15.

About Joseph Friedrichs

Comments

  1. Dave Skinner says:

    This is insane, as usual.
    AWR and TU have got to be doing handsprings and cartwheels — together.
    More “jobs” shuffling paper all to justify that OTHER jobs, the ones that generate wealth and profit for TAXES to PAY GOVERNMENT SALARIES, will never happen.
    Does anyone remember when the oily, logy Dolly Varden was pretty much a trash fish?
    And does anyone have a clue how hard it will be to restore adfluvial populations that just happen to be redd-specific in their spawning habits?
    If the idea was to recover DV, and if sportsmen truly lusted after bull trout, then there would have been a hatchery and spawn-planting program implemented long ago. Hmmm. Wonder why not.

  2. Smithhammer says:

    Dave –

    So then if it isn’t considered a desirable sport fish, or have some other commercial application, screw it?

    And Mr. Friedrichs –

    I have to say this is a bizarre and incongruent statement within the rest of your piece:

    “The bull trout is nothing more than a fish. The spotted owl is nothing more than a winged-eating machine. Does it make sense to pile millions of dollars into protecting these creatures? Only time will tell.”

    Huh? Since there are no quotes around this strange sentiment, I take it to be the author’s opinion, and frankly, a rather facile one at that. Or to take inspiration from your profound descriptions of fish and owls, should I refer to you as merely a, “seated primate hammering a keyboard” rather than “author?”

    Lamentably, the line between reporting and op-ed seems to be a very murky one on New West all too often.

  3. bearbait says:

    All this protection for a fish that used to have a bounty. Yes. A bounty. A finned eating machine that vacuumed young salmon out of small creeks on its way to spawning. Only then it was called Sal. malmo. Evidently, when the fish freaques created the new species in the late 1970′s, Sal. confluentus, all the bad habitats of the Dolly Varden, Sal. malmo, went to the sea run version of this same fish.

    Bull trout live on the ability of other fish to glean a living out of almost sterile, clear, cold water. The most challenging factor to bull trout existence is the introduction of brook trout, Sal. fontanalis, into their habitat. The brook trout spawn earlier in the year and their young emerge to predate on bull trout offspring. Logging has not been the boogey man in bull trout life styles. Dams restricting access to salt water, and introduced brook trout are the main culprits.

    So in the Rahm Emanuel credo of “don’t waste a good crisis”, find a way to include logging in any plan to protect a critter whose existence is being mostly threatened by something else. Don’t waste the crisis.

    On that note, is this not a very good reason to have a NEPA document for the USFS/BLM fire fighting decisions? Is letting fires burn, which will result in two types of soil disturbance, dry ravel and steep slope failures in rain events, a water quality destroying process, and therefore harmful to bull trout? Also, the loss of shade is another stream temperature altering event. I would hope Joseph would find it in his all reaching defense of all species, great and small, to challenge catastrophic fire as a habitat altering event with long term effects.

  4. Treehugger says:

    Yet another obviously biased report from Newwest. It’s hard to want to get the energy to comment when you get so much junk posing as what…opinion, journalism, op-ed? You never know with most of the articles on this website. I’m personally interested in Bull Trout,….I like the species and enjoy seeing them in my local rivers for what it’s worth, but this particular “article?” above gives me so little information. O.K. so critical habitat has been increased,…why? what has happened to the Bull Trout since it was listed however many years ago? What is the trend, how has the population responded since it has been listed as a threatened species.
    Instead I get….”In case you were wondering, that means more jobs and more hours. And yes, more money spent protecting the environment.” What the heck?
    Come on Newwest, give me some meat and potatoes,..just the facts please, opinion pieces staged as news articles are so easy to come by and are incredibly boring.
    Please try harder.

  5. fishhead says:

    It looks to me like this is about creating jobs (false economies) and shutting down access to more public land?

    How long ago was the Bull Trout listed and in that time what have we done in a proactive way to facilitate an uptick in their populations? We’ve been through both political parties with the fish classified this way and neither has done diddly.

    In other words, if there was a serious interest in restoring Bull trout you would think that by now we would have at least made some serious positive headway already. On the current path, you could shut down every possible stretch of Bull habitat in the west and still come up with a bag of sand.

    We have at least one hatchery (Creston, MT) capable of producing plant stock and every year what do they do with them-virtually nothing substantial for river populations. This hatchery produces enough fry to bolster Bull populations all over the west. Granted we need the redds, the habitat but we also need agencies and real policy with the balls to make a real difference.

    It’s not a question of should we do something more to restore some Bull trout and Bull habitat, of course we should; but at what cost? Will it be done effectively and should be we putting our resources somewhere that has thus far demonstrated very little commitment to positive measurable results?

  6. Mike says:

    Great news!

    And Skinner, cut that mullet!

  7. Larry Sellers says:

    I can see why people react badly to such added protections, especially when more red tape is piled on in watersheds that are already covered by the ESA to protect endangered stocks of salmon over on the coast.

    What I don’t get is the rationale of “well it used to be a trash fish”, “it used to have a bounty on it” so why bother now? I see your point, the government has done some odd stuff over the years, but to think that way is just spiteful and handicaps any kind of real approach to the problem in today’s terms, whatever your opinion of bull trout may be.

    It’s just as counterproductive as the enviros who want to see every inch of stream protected from human encroachment of any kind in this country of 300 million people.

    We used to shoot and trap the hell out of all kinds of species that would be eliminated in no time if we returned to those ways. Should we just because it was ok back then?

  8. bearbait says:

    The bounty issue is real, and a part of the problem. The matter of critical mass for any population comes into play. There are several critical mass issues at play for the anadromous char that no longer has access to the sea due to dams, or long term geologic change. So the fish guys arbitrarily, and for metaphorical purposes, divided one species into two. Those Dolly Varden that might still go to sea to feed are one species, and they are more numerous the father north up the Pacific coast you travel. That does make sense, you know, because water gets colder the further north you travel.

    The second critical mass deal is the prey base for the inland groups and the anadromous groups. They were a traditional fresh water predator on salmon egss, fry, fingerlings, and smolts. I have a friend who grew up on a sizeable tributary to the John Day River in Oregon. His lifetime observation was that Dolly Varden entered the tributary, and that was the end of trout fishing, of steelhead smolt and salmon smolt biting your fly. The spawning run of the Dollys was on. They fished for them with chipmunks, house mice, or ducklings as bait. But never ate them as they were too oily, too soft, and just tasted terrible. The fisheads were nailed to sides of sheds or out houses as trophies, and picked clean by flies, leaving the bony parts behind. If you had the heart and time, they were worth a small bounty at the country clerk’s. All this was before Bonneville dam was constructed.

    There is no real way to tell the difference between a “bull trout” and a sea run Dolly Varden. The sea run is most always a little wormy, but the flesh can be orange and tastes better than the fish denied access to the sea. So, the result is that by listing one particular segment of the population, the anadromous population gets de facto protection and most likely waste occurs.

    I am still at a loss as to how wildland fire across vast landscapes is not a game changer for water quality for a period of time, and during that period of time, if there is a population below critical mass, can it really sustain itself through the debris torrents, lost shading, bedload movement, changes in water chemistry? And if you have a protected population of char, will the aquatic species on which it feeds be at levels to maintain the char’s life?

    The big “bull trout” population in Oregon, and the one that has prospered in the last 40 years, is on the Metolius River, which was denied access to the sea when the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs built Pelton dam on their land with half the power belonging to PGE. Sockeye were planted in the reservoir, which are sockeye salmon, and they do reproduce, and the reservoir is deep enough to be cold at the bottom, and does sustain a huge crayfish population. Fed by the coldest of spring run Rivers, the Metolius, the “Bull Trout” population is robust, large, and well fed. There are ongoing construction projects designed to once again bring anadromous fish to the watershed above the dam, and much work has been done on streams above the dam to ensure that they will be friendly to a return of anadromous fish to their waters.

    My question, then, would be how much monitoring of char migration to sea, and returning fish, will happen, and if there is a char return to anadromous life styles, will they still be considered “bull trout” or revert to being Dolly Varden, as they once were?

  9. fishhead says:

    Bearbait brings up another issue that gets overlooked, predation. Bull’s eat everything. Compare them with Northern Pike. Bull’s get big and when the get big they eat big.

    In the Flathead, if they didn’t have pike and lake trout competing with them for whitefish and cutts they’d be eating everything in place of both species. Probably the same scenario in the Swan. What would we have if the pike and mac’s were not a viable population in these habitats? Possibly a lot of Bull trout?

    I am obliged to think that the answers already exist to a point, the science for recovery is there and the natural resources are there. We don’t need to lock up more public lands or dump more money into this bottomless bucket. Bull trout recovery can start now without adding more money, study, politics and agency welfare.

  10. bearbait says:

    Fishhead hits the nail on the head!!! Bull trout are freshwater apex predators. The water quality issues are not the determining factors, but adequate prey base is. Catching and keeping trout in a stream is a problem. Even catch and release is a problem, as a percentage of the released fish have been stressed to where they will not survive. A lot of “sports” fishing has to end to build bull trout to “recovery” numbers.

    Over fishing, endemic on every creek, stream, river and lake, is the over riding issue, and has been for a century and a half. Those Europeans changed the dynamic of streams and who lives there by fishing, and eating the fish.

    Eating the fish, and not crapping within a quarter mile of the creek, results in a long term degradation of the stream. You took out food and replaced it with nothing. At least a bull trout craps in the creek. And so do bears, eagles, ospreys, mink, otters, and raccoons. Catching a fish in one county and that fish ends up expelled in a gym, on a bike, and finally in a municipal sewerage, none of which does one thing to promote stream health. Think about it. Just think about where the energy of a stream comes from, and how the nutrients get there. And then tell me how to “recover” bull trout. The official version will be to stop logging. And that has yet to have an appreciable impact on anything but rural economies now broke, destined to stay broke, and there is no end to the jobs in centers of academia and government to “study” the problem. Fish live in water, and eat in water, reproduce in water. Less water and there are fewer fish. Stop logging and it takes thirty years, a host of government programs, all that say the same thing: selling Sno-Cones to tourists two and half months of the year does not make a viable economy. So, like Haiti, home to (an I cannot fathom this number—really—over 10,000 NGOs BEFORE the earthquake doling out human aid to 7 million people without jobs and hope), the rural West becomes more wounded with each hiccup of the economy, each land use decision, each bank failure. I live in a tiny rural community, in a rural county with most of the land in industrial tree farms and public lands. We had 575 foreclosures in 2009. Where are the NGOs for America? Out saving bull trout.

  11. Mike says:

    Fishhead, you don’t make any sense. If bulltrout “eat everything” , why did cutts manage to survive for thousands of years in the same habitat? Why haven’t the bul trout eaten all of the cutts on the south fork of the Flathead which is the closest thing we have to a true wilderness trout stream in the lower 48? In fact, the South Fork of the Flathead is the some of the best cutt fishing in the nation. Strange.

  12. andrew says:

    the definition for “op-ed” in journalistic lingo is “opposing editorials.” That would mean that there were two editorials next to each other, and with differing stances or viewpoints.
    Please apply your words correctly…

    I think what everyone was refering to was the corporate nature of the dissemination of facts, both from media outlets but especially from our federal land management agencies, which creates this type of drivel insted of an actual news report that included some semblance of RESEARCH. The term for this is “public relations.” Not to be confused with actual news reporting which requires research…also called “communications”…

    There are so many amazing things about the Bull Trout that this article could have talked about, like
    how they can swim over 50+ miles in a day, UPSTREAM!!! AT NIGHT!!!. How they will (if a dam doesn’t stop them first) swim up to 250 miles to get to their spawning grounds, they are the largest native trout to Montana which incidentally makes them a prized fish species in many people’s opinion, etc,etc,etc,etc.

    Not all Bull Trout run to the sea, so dont confuse that Bearbait. They will live lower down on large freshwater rivers in MT, OR, ID, NV, and then they travel up into the headwater streams to spawn.

    Also, this being a keystone species as well an an indicator species means that the best that anyone can do to ensure their survival is protect their very specific habitat requirements, especially the headwater stream systems.

    Bearbait: technically, you can divide the Bull Trout into two subspecies, just like you can do the same for Brown Trout (German Brown Trout, Sea-Run Brown Trout), and the obvious difference between Rainbow Trout and Steelhead (same species as Rainbow Trout, just very different habitat requirements). The Sea Running (Coastal) Bull Trout are the Dolly Varden/Arctic Char you are refering to. They are the ones that have the orange stomach and fins like a Brook Trout’s coloration.

    This whole Critical Habitat assessment includes the Bull Trout that have lived as a native species
    in Montana for the last 15,000 to 20,000 years. These
    things are literally prehistoric, and I do not
    think you truly understand their importance in our river systems.

    Also, since this “opinion” or “communication” that fell way short of REPORTING could have said that part of this new plan is to construct fish passage at all dams inland (over 20 of them) for both Bull Trout and Salmon (finally). There is good info on the FWS webpage with good maps as well, very detailed, unlike this blurb.

  13. fishhead says:

    Mike-

    True enough, “everything” was to broad. Let’s just say that a mature Bull is a very efficient apex predator and yes they seem to coexist well with Cutts. Although its extremely unlikely, could to many Bulls become a problem for other fish? Given the checks and balances that have already been muddied up by “management” it makes me wonder.

    My point is that you can close down every mile of Bull habitat in the west and put every working/non-working scientist and “research team” on the job and study this thing to freaking death but until someone actually has the balls to implement some real policy and put it to work the Bull trout are not going anywhere and we are just wasting more time and more money.

  14. Smithhammer says:

    Andrew, et. al:

    It’s true that “op-ed” initially meant “opposite the editorial page.” And that many now understand (or misunderstand, depending on your POV) it to mean “opinion piece.”

    However, if there is confusion about this, a fair bit of it can be attributed to statements by the very many who first coined the term, – Herbert Bayard Swope of The New York Evening World, who said,

    “It occurred to me that nothing is more interesting than opinion when opinion is interesting, so I devised a method of cleaning off the page opposite the editorial, which became the most important in America … and thereon I decided to print opinions, ignoring facts.”

    Regardless, it seems applicable here. Otherwise, I agree with your post completely.