Press Release: Bull Trout Harmed by Years of Agency Inaction, Legal Action Initiated

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, 314-482-3746
John Meyer, Cottonwood Environmental Law Center, 406-587-5800
Travis Bruner, Western Watersheds Project, 208-788-2290
Sarah Peters, WildEarth Guardians, 541-345-0299
 
Bozeman, MT – Nearly four years after critical habitat protection was granted to bull trout, federal land management agencies have still not determined whether existing land management plans are compatible with protecting the fish. Today, conservation groups Cottonwood Environmental Law Center, WildEarth Guardians, Western Watersheds Project, and Cascadia Wildlands sent a notice of intent to sue to both the Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service over failures to properly evaluate the consequences of actions taken within bull trout critical habitat.
 
Bull trout (Salvelinus confluentus) formerly ranged throughout the Columbia River and Snake River basins, extending east to headwater streams
bull_trout (US Fish and Wildlife Service)

Bull trout require cold, clear water for survival. (Photo by USFWS)

in Montana and Idaho, into Canada, and in the Klamath River basin of south-central Oregon. Unfortunately, human activities have driven the trout close to extinction. Activities adjacent to streams, such as logging, grazing, road construction, and off-road vehicle use, increase water temperature and add sediment to bull trout habitat. Of all fish species found in western rivers and streams, bull trout need the coldest and cleanest water, making them particularly vulnerable to water quality impacts.
 
“It isn’t just the logging, grazing, road construction and ORV use that threatens these fish,” said John Meyer, Executive Director of Cottonwood Environmental Law Center and attorney on the case. “Those threats are compounded by increasing water temperatures due to climate change. The agencies really must address impacts in critical habitat if bull trout are going to survive.
 
Bull trout were protected as a threatened species in 1999 and critical habitat was designated in 2010. Designated critical habitat for the bull trout includes 19,729 miles of stream and 488,251.7 acres of reservoirs and lakes in the States of Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Idaho, and Montana. With this designation, the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management were required to consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service. Consultation requires the agency to take a step back from on-going and proposed management actions to make sure bull trout are recovering in these specially protected areas.
 
 “Unfortunately, the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management have continued with business as usual,” said Travis Bruner, Executive Director of Western Watersheds Project “We hope that this notice causes them to change course and start protecting bull trout.”
 
“Bull trout are the ‘canary in the coal mine’ for water quality and water quantity in western states,” said Sarah Peters of WildEarth Guardians. “Protecting them protects a whole suite of aquatic species as well as the watersheds on which human communities increasingly depend.”
 
 "The Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management need a 'time out' until they talk to fish  experts about the impacts of their landscape management projects on the imperiled bull trout," says Nick Cady, Legal Director with Cascadia Wildlands. "Otherwise, this iconic fish will continue its perilous journey towards extinction."
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