"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

U.S.F.W.S Bull Trout Recovery Plan

24 Recovery Units in 5 states, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Nevada, and Montana. Total cost of the program is 408 million over 25 years. This does not include money that will have to be spent by other federal agencies, the states and private interests to comply with the Plan


The Klamath River, Columbia River, Jarbidge River, St. Mary-Belly River, and Coastal-Puget Sound, in the states of Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington.







The Flathead Recovery Subunit (Figures 5 and 6) includes Flathead Lake and its tributary system (North and Middle Fork Flathead, Stillwater, and

Whitefish Rivers), Swan Lake and its tributaries, and the South Fork Flathead River watershed upstream of Hungry Horse Dam. About 27 natural lakes with adfluvial bull trout populations occur in this recovery subunit


1. Distribution criteria will be met when the total number of identified local populations has been maintained or increased.

2. Abundance criteria will be met when, in all 10 primary core areas, each of at least 5 local populations contains more than 100 adult bull trout and the total adult bull trout abundance must exceed 1,000 fish. Adult bull trout abundance must exceed 2,500 adult bull trout in each of the following lakes: Lake Pend Oreille, Flathead Lake, and Swan Lake. The abundance criteria for 24 secondary core areas will be met when each core area one local population containing more than 100 adult bull trout.

3.Trend criteria will be met when the overall bull trout population in the Clark Fork Recovery Unit is as stable or increasing, based on at least 10 years of monitoring data.

4. Connectivity criteria will be met when functional fish passage is restored or determined to be unnecessary to support bull trout recovery at Milltown, Thompson Falls, Noxon Rapids, Cabinet Gorge, and Priest Lake Dams and when dam operational issues are satisfactorily addressed at Hungry Horse, Bigfork, Kerr, and Albeni Falls Dams


1 Protect, restore, and maintain suitable habitat conditions for bull trout.

1.1 Maintain or improve water quality in bull trout core areas or potential core habitat.

1.2 Eliminate barriers and sites of entrainment for bull trout.

1.3 Identify and restore impaired stream channel and riparian areas.

1.4 Operate dams to minimize negative effects on bull trout .

1.5 Identify upland conditions negatively affecting bull trout habitats and implement tasks to restore appropriate functions.



"Dams have been one of the most important factors in reducing the bull trout population of the Clark Fork Recovery Unit."

"Deliberations are occurring over whether to implement a fisheries mitigation plan that includes provisions for providing selective fish passage at this facility or remove the dam (Milltown) altogether." pp32

"In the Upper Clark Fork Recovery Subunit, fish passage must be provided at Milltown Dam, or the dam must be removed and the migratory corridor restored"


"In all recovery subunits, … restoring passage over and around many of the barriers that are typically located on smaller streams, including water diversions, road crossings, and culverts. Substantial progress must be made in providing passage over at least half of these sites, …, to meet the bull trout recovery criteria…" pp141

Must be done in a way that does not close access or shut down the functions of the barrier


"For over 100 years, forestry practices have caused major impacts to bull trout habitat"


Evaluate and, if necessary, mitigate impacts from Rock Creek Mine. This mine could be a great economic boon to the Trout Creek, Thompson Falls area.


"Continue to develop and implement sport angling regulations and fisheries management plans, guidelines, and policies that minimize unintentional mortality of bull trout... Evaluate enforcement of angling regulations and oversee scientific research. Ensure compliance with angling regulations." pp 173

"Angling regulations in most waters have gone as far as they can to protect native species, short of completely closing angling to further reduce the take that occurs from hooking mortality and species misidentification." pp108

What constitutional authority does USFWS have to "develop and implement sport angling regulations?"  If USFWS is allowed to have its way there will be no need for state fish and game commissions because their authority will have been usurped by the feds and local sportsmen will be taking their fishing and hunting gear to the dumpster .

"Experimentally remove established brook trout populations.

This would require poisoning Stryker Lake and possibly Bull Lake.


"Minimize recreational development in bull trout spawning and rearing habitat. Minimize impacts from expansion or development of new golf courses, ski areas, campgrounds, fishing access sites, and second home or other recreational developments in the corridors of bull trout spawning and rearing streams." pp145

Aren’t tourism and recreation supposed to be the bulwarks of our bright new economic future?


"The panel concluded that the lake trout population has to be reduced by 70 to 90 percent from present levels if bull trout are to return to population levels of the 1980's." pp 99

Some drainages may be unrecoverable because of non-native species yet we are going to use "any means necessary" to recover them.  Upper Stillwater is a case in point.


"Ultimately, unmanaged growth and residential sprawl may be one of the biggest threats to the recovery of bull trout." ppxii

"The impact of residential development will become increasingly important to bull trout recovery in the Flathead Recovery Subunit.… Unmanaged growth and increased development pose a serious threat to water quality in many of the lakes …" pp78

"Regulate private fish ponds This task can be accomplished in part by acquiring water rights from willing sellers in Montana (priority streams identified to date are Rock and Swamp Creeks) or by designating minimum flows." pp169

"Reduce habitat protection through purchase, conservation easements, watershed restoration, management plans, and other methods." pp177

These are clear violations of 5th Amendment of the Bill of Rights.



"Total cost of bull trout recovery in the Clark Fork Recovery Unit is estimated at $71.9 million spread over a 25-year recovery period." pp xvi

Total cost for the 16,900 fish that this plan will require as a minimum population in Clarke Fork-Flathead recovery unit will be 71.9 million over 25 years which pencils out to $4254.37 per fish and this does not include the much larger costs incurred by property owners and state agencies to comply or the possibly even larger lost opportunity costs that will result from restrictions on recreation or industry.  I do not believe it includes the cost of removing milltown dam which is recommended will soon be done.



"Trend was considered unknown in 53 of the remaining 55 subpopulations,…." pp 24

This and many other admissions of ignorance inspire little confidence in USFWS ability to adopt a reasonable and prudent recovery plan.

"Conversion of redd counts or other indices to adult numbers should be developed ... alternate-year spawning appears to be the norm. On the other hand, …, they concluded that nearly all of the fish they followed spawned annually." pp 138 There even seems to be some confusion over how they are going to count the fish.


No Economic Impact Analysis

Compliance with the Regulatory Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. 601 et seq.).

Economic analysis required by New Mexico Cattle Growers Assn. v. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service 248 F.3d 1277 (10th Cir. 2001)..

Compliance with Executive Order 13211

Requires agencies to prepare Statements of Energy Effects when undertaking certain actions.

They are proceeding without the analysis.  The economic information that is necessary to comply with federal law and that is also needed to formulate a good plan is missing.  So they obviously don’t think much of the law or the economic impacts that their actions incur.

Other federal laws

USFWS has taken the same approach regarding a lack of economic analysis as to compliance with

Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (2 U.S.C. 1501 et seq.).

Executive Order 12630, ("Government Actions and Interference with Constitutionally Protected Private Property Rights")

Executive Order 13132.

Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (5 U.S.C. 804(2))


As they did with the bull trout critical habitat designation , USFWS has not complied with NEPA. The Recovery Plan is not a NEPA document. Among other things it does not consider the economic or cultural impact on human populations nor does it consider the impact on other species. There is no economic analysis or cumulative effects analysis in the Plan. All of these are required by NEPA.

Apparently USFWS believes that they are exempt from federal laws.


Delisting should occur as each major recovery unit meets its recovery criteria rather than have to wait until bull trout recovered throughout its range.



"It is important to recognize that in some watersheds, or portions of them, bull trout were probably never numerous because of natural habitat limitations." pp25

"…that many of the small isolated populations in the Clark Fork Recovery Unit (defined below as secondary core areas) are essentially stranded local populations that have apparently persisted for a very long time, even thousands of years, at population levels very similar to current levels. " pp133 Here is more evidence of USFWS’s confusion as to the actual status of bull trout. If bull trout are naturally limited rather than endangered, then we can expect them to persist without our help and it would not be prudent seriously impact the economy, culture and lives of citizens on unnecessary recovery efforts.

"Extirpation of bull trout in as many as one-fourth of the secondary core areas (6 or fewer) is expected to occur over the next 25 years. Reasonable recovery efforts must continue in all primary and secondary core areas to minimize the chance of local extirpations. Consideration must be given to using whatever means necessary to maintain or restore at-risk populations." pp 139 Apparently USFWS defines "reasonable recovery efforts" as "whatever means necessary."   Is it prudent to spend recovery dollars and efforts on waters that USFWS believes cannot be recovered?


"Pike and lake trout have both become well established in the Stillwater Lakes, providing little hope for bull trout recovery in those lakes,…" pp101

"Today, these rivers were judged by the Montana Bull Trout Scientific Group to

be low-priority streams for restoration because of the long-term nature of the decline and the existing degraded habitat conditions (MBTSG 1995c)." pp17

And yet Whitefish Lake and Upper Stillwater Lakes are being designated critical habitat.  Is that a reasonable or prudent expense of taxpayer dollars and government effort?


This recovery plan is too expensive. $408 million taxpayer dollars is too much for a program to recover one fish to a population and a range that are, at least in part, speculative.  This expenditure is even more unreasonable when the fact that some of the recovery efforts will, according to the plan document, be futile.  When the additional costs of dam alterations and required expenditures of other federal and state agencies are added along with lost opportunity costs and related expenses incurred by private interests, this plan is simply unaffordable.  It needs to be scaled back to a point at which the bull trout is saved from extinction but not necessarily restored to historical numbers or range.



U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Snake River Fish and Wildlife Office

1387 S. Vinnell Way

Room 368

Boise, Idaho 83709.


This page was last updated on 05/29/08

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