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Draft Bull Trout Recovery Plan Lacks Numerical Population Goals

Bull trout
Joel Sartore/National Geographic, and Wade Fredenberg/USFWS

The leader of a Montana conservation group says it’s prepared to file an eleventh lawsuit if the federal government doesn’t change its bull trout recovery plan.

The Alliance for the Wild Rockies has successfully sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over bull trout recovery ten times in the past.

Bull trout are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in the lower 48.

Alliance Executive Director Michael Garrity says the Fish and Wildlife Service based its most recent draft decision on politics rather than science and law. It eliminates numerical goals for rebuilding populations. He says the ESA makes it clear that scientific standards - including numerical population goals - must be used :

"By definition, that's not a recovery plan...I think it's an Orwellian way of saying that we're not going to recover the species. It's like when President Bush had his clean air campaign...it was a plan to let industry pollute more. This is a plan to let bull trout go extinct rather than recover them. They're using the excuse of global warming to say "Well, we can't make any tough decisions. We're just going to give up on bull trout.

As reported this week, the Fish and Wildlife Service's most recent draft recognizes climate change makes losing some populations inevitable and focuses on fixing threats to habitat and genetic diversity.

Fish and Wildlife Service Senior biologist, Steve Duke, says this latest recovery plan updates criteria already proposed:

"We've learned a lot since 2002/2004. What we're doing is focusing a continuation of a focus on removing and addressing the threats affecting bull trout in those core areas where bull trout occur. If you fix those threats then they're going to reach what we think is a stable - what we're calling a "demographically stable" - population that should persist and meet the needs of the Endangered Species Act.

Duke asks people fully familiarize themselves with this most recent draft recovery plan before criticizing it.

The initial public comment period ends December 3rd. 

Edward O'Brien is Montana Public Radio's Associate News Director.
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