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.