"It does not require a majority to prevail, 
but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people's minds."
 --Samuel Adams - Leader in our Fight for Independence

Bull Trout Critical Habitat

In 2004 USFWS finalized the "critical habitat designations" for the Klamath and Columbia River systems.  They reduced the total stream miles to 1748 from 18,741 and lake acres to 61,235 from 532,731.  There was no designated critical habitat (DCH) in Montana.  

However, Alliance for the Wild Rockies and Friends of the Wild Swan sued and won forcing USFWS to review these CH designations.  In September, 2005 USFWS published a new "Final" Critical Habitat Designation in the Federal Register.  This rule designates the following streams and lakes:

Idaho: 294 stream miles and 50,627acres of lakes or reservoirs
Montana: 1,058 stream miles and 31,916 acres of lakes or reservoirs
Oregon: 939 stream miles and 27,322 acres of lakes or reservoirs
Oregon/Idaho: 17 stream miles
Washington: 1,519 stream miles, 33,353 acres of lakes or reservoirs, and 985 miles of marine shoreline 

For a total of 3827 stream miles and 143,218 acres of lakes or reservoirs.   94% of these stream miles cross private land.

The USFWS Critical Habitat designation includes a huge amount of streams and lakes and the impact on businesses and individuals who need or want permits or project approval will be significant and possibly prohibitive. Examples of affected activities include logging, road construction and maintenance, prescribed fire livestock grazing, recreation, fishing, off-road vehicle use. powerline or pipeline construction and repair, mining, or urban and suburban development,.

Problems with the designations identified by MFMU

From the testimony in the proposal it is uncertain whether or not bull trout really need habitat designation and more importantly which habitat is really critical. The science does not appear to be complete or conclusive.

USFWS says that this proposal will be peer reviewed by three indivduals. It should be reviewed by the National Academy of Science as well. Great care should be taken to select reviewers who are knowledgeable and unbiased.

It does not make sense to designate habitat like Upper Stillwater River and Whitefish lake that are infested with predatory pike and lake trout. Also the lower sections of the Upper Stillwater are warm waters which are not favored by bull trout.

USFWS did not fully comply with ESA because

1. Some of designated habitat appears marginal and not "essential to the conservation of the species"

2. Did not demonstrate that unoccupied designated habitat is critical to conservation of the species.

USFWS should eliminate all but the most essential waters from the designations because of the high probability of serious negative economic impacts from the designations. All of the marginal waters should be removed.

USFWS should submit the proposal to the National Academy of Sciences for peer review.

USFWS should disclose all impacts of the designations.


This page was last updated on 05/29/08

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