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Know the West

Bonneville trout denied protection



Environmental groups have stepped up to the plate three times for the Bonneville cutthroat trout since 1979, asking the Fish and Wildlife Service to grant the trout a slot on the endangered species list. On Oct. 9, the agency threw the fish's defenders their third strike.

Officials said that threats to cutthroat habitat, such as logging and mining, have decreased during the last 30 years; they also noted that genetic evidence shows relatively little crossbreeding with other trout. The Bonneville cutthroat is the official state fish in Idaho and Utah and one of the few trout species native to the arid Great Basin. Nevada and Wyoming also have native populations.

The decision resolves a 1998 petition by the Biodiversity Legal Foundation to list the species as threatened. The fish was included in an August agreement with the Center for Biological Diversity that required the Fish and Wildlife Service to take action on listing proposals for 29 species (HCN, 9/10/01: The Latest Bounce). In the case of the Bonneville cutthroat, the settlement required only that the agency make a decision on the listing petition.

"We are very disappointed," says Jasper Carlton, executive director of the Biodiversity Legal Foundation. "There is no question ... that this subspecies of cutthroat is, in fact, biologically threatened." Carlton says his group will probably challenge the decision in court.

Copyright © 2001 HCN and Matt Weiser