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Conservation groups file lawsuit over Arctic grayling protections

An Arctic grayling run
Michael (Josh) Melton
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Conservation groups filed a lawsuit against federal wildlife officials over the protection status of Montana’s Arctic Grayling population.

The lawsuit says that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service overlooked the best available science in a 2020 decision not to list Montana’s Arctic Grayling population for protection under the Endangered Species Act.

The fish have shrunk to around 4% of their original habitat and are largely confined to a 200 mile stretch of the Big Hole River.

In the agency’s 2020 decision, the Fish and Wildlife Service said data showed steady population numbers and that voluntary water conservation efforts would stabilize habitat loss.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which include a Butte resident and two conservation groups based in Arizona and Idaho (Center for Biological Diversity and the Western Watersheds Project) say that the Fish and Wildlife Service’s review of the voluntary conservation efforts was flawed and overlooked factors like climate change. They are asking the U.S. District Court of Montana in Butte to force the Service to reevaluate their decision.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said they do not comment on active litigation.

John joined the Montana Public Radio team in August 2022. Born and raised in Helena, he graduated from the University of Montana’s School of Media Arts and created the Montana history podcast Land Grab. John can be contacted at
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