Massive Bull Trout Protections

A re-examination of bull trout needs in the Northwest led the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service yesterday to propose a much larger area for critical habitat than what the agency had suggested in 2005.

It would increase the amount of stream miles in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Nevada by 18,851 miles and the amount of lakes and reservoirs by 390,208 acres, according to a press release.

(USFWS)

Under the previous administration, 3,828 miles of rivers and 143,218 acres of lakes were proposed for protection.

No change is proposed in the 985 miles of marine shoreline in Washington that
were designated as critical habitat in 2005, the press release says.

The agency says that bull trout once existed in 60 percent of the Columbia Basin, but that’s been reduced to 30 percent. They say the species has very specific needs even more demanding than salmon.

“Bull trout require the coldest water temperature; they require the cleanest stream substrates for spawning and rearing; they need complex habitats, including streams with riffles and deep pools, undercut banks and lots of large logs; as well as a connection between river, lake and ocean habitats to headwater streams for annual spawning and feeding migrations,” the agency writes.

As for the effect the habitat designation would have, Matthew Preusch of The Oregonian writes:

If the proposal goes through, federal agencies that manage forests for recreation and logging; grasslands for grazing, or hydropower dams for electricity would have to take a closer look at whether their actions degrade waterways in huge portions of the West where the trout resides.

“It’s kind of like putting a big yellow caution flag along these streams and lakes that are habitat for bull trout,” Jack Williams, senior scientist for the group Trout Unlimited.

Public comment is open through March 15.

Eight meetings will also be held around the region starting in early February. They include stops:

• February 2, 2010, 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.: Bend, Oregon: Hollingshead Barn, 1235 NE Jones Road

• February 3, 2010, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.: Chiloquin, Oregon: Chiloquin Community Center, 140 S.1st Street

• February 4, 2010, 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.: LaGrande, Oregon: Blue Mountain Conference Center, 404 12th Street

• February 11, 2010, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.: Post Falls, Idaho: Red Lion Templins Inn, 414 East 1st Avenue

• February 16, 2010, 3 p.m. to 8 p.m.: Missoula, Montana: Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Headquarters, 3201 Spurgin Road

• February 17, 2010, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.: Elko, Nevada: Elko Convention Center, Gold Room, 700 Moren Way

• February 23, 2010, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.: Wenatchee, Washington: Wenatchee-Okanogon National Forest Headquarters, 215 Melody Lane

• February 25, 2010, 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.: Boise, Idaho: Boise Centre on the Grove, 850 W. Front Street.

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