The bull trout has finally been listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act! This is a major victory for watershed protection and restoration, native species, and conservation biology. This action, announced by Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt on June 5th, follows a lengthy, and continuing, legal battle to protect the bull trout and its habitat. This listing, in terms of impact, may be the largest endangered species listing of its kind. Affected are 32 National Forests, parts of 5 states, numerous Indian Reservations, several National Parks, and a host of other jurisdictions including BLM, Corps of Engineers, state, county, city and corporate timber lands stretching from the Pacific Ocean to the Continental Divide on the Rocky Mountain crest.
Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Friends of the Wild Swan, and Swan View Coalition petitioned the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to list bull trout in October of 1992. Despite overwhelming biological information which has chronicled the range-wide decline of the species, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service made numerous attempts to classify bull trout as “warranted, but precluded” for listing under the Act, and as recently as 1997 attempted to declare the Coastal/Puget Sound, Jarbidge River, and St. Mary’s/Belly River populations as “not warranted.” Each time, the groups challenged the illegal decisions in federal court and won.
According to Babbitt, bull trout will now be listed as threatened throughout the Columbia River Basin in Montana, Idaho, Oregon and Washington, and as threatened in the Klamath Basin in southwest Oregon. These listings will take effect 30 days after publication in the Federal Register, expected the week of June 8th. Bull trout are also now proposed to be listed as threatened in the Coastal/Puget sound area of western Washington, the Jarbidge River in northern Nevada, and the St. Mary/Belly River area in Montana.
Need more information on the Bull Trout? Read AWR’s Special Report #9: The Bull Trout.