Michael Garrity, Alliance for the Wild Rockies, (406) 459-5936
Arlene Montgomery, Friends of the Wild Swan, (406) 886-2011
MISSOULA—The groups who successfully sued to have the bull trout listed under the Endangered Species Act today filed a 60-day notice of intent to sue challenging the federal government decision to slash critical habitat designations for the threatened bull trout by more than 90%.
Alliance for the Wild Rockies and Friends of the Wild Swan conservation organizations said in their notice that the final designations for the Columbia and Klamath River basins are the result of illegal maneuvers by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to override the recommendations of their own scientists.
“We can’t allow this to stand,” said Michael Garrity, executive director of the Montana-based Alliance for the Wild Rockies. “We hope the court will agree with us that the government assertion that critical habitat is meaningless is a ploy to deny required legal protections. Failing to protect bull trout habitat will jeopardize clean water supplies throughout the Northwest.”
“The Service’s basis for reducing critical habitat is contrary to nearly all legal precedent. It’s a flagrant attempt to circumvent the law,” said Missoula attorney Jack Tuholske, the lead attorney on the bull trout cases.
By slashing the proposed designations by approximately 90%, the government has ignored its own scientists and legal findings. The original proposal for the Columbia and Klamath Basins contained approximately 18,500 miles of rivers and streams, and over 500,000 acres of lakes. The final contains just 1,748 miles of streams and only 61,000 acres of lakes. All of Montana’s proposed critical habitat was eliminated.
“Bull trout are facing the same threats now as when they were listed,” said Arlene Montgomery, Program Director for Friends of the Wild Swan. “The Fish and Wildlife Service chose political expedience rather than good science, bull trout habitat and clean water.”
The groups first petitioned the government for bull trout listing in October of 1992, finally prevailing in court some seven years later. The groups see parallels between the latest Fish and Wildlife Service action and earlier attempts to stifle agency scientists who had documented the species’ decline.