Judge is bullish on trout protection

  Pushed by a federal judge, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says it has started the process of listing the bull trout under the Endangered Species Act.

The announcement was sad news for the governors of Idaho and Montana, who both have crafted state recovery plans for the cold-water-loving species, partly in an attempt to head off a listing (HCN, 5/15/95).

But environmentalists, who originally asked the agency to list the bull trout back in 1992, greeted it enthusiastically.

"Bull trout are the indicators of healthy streams and rivers," says Mike Bader of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies. "Protecting and restoring their habitat would benefit the entire ecosystem." Bader says a listing will force the Forest Service to re-evaluate the effects of grazing, logging and mining on riparian areas, especially in the fish's roadless strongholds at the top of watersheds.

The Fish and Wildlife Service decided against a federal listing in 1994, claiming that while the species warranted protection, other species deserved more attention. The alliance challenged that decision as illegal and last November a federal judge agreed.

Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman Susan Saul says her agency will now propose a listing by June for two bull trout populations - one in Oregon's Klamath River Basin, the other in the massive Columbia River Basin, which includes portions of Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana. From that date, the agency will have a year to make a final decision.

* Paul Larmer

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