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Wildlife officials abandon Arctic grayling pipeline plan

Federal wildlife officials are abandoning a conservation plan for Arctic grayling at a wildlife refuge in southwest Montana. The plan had been temporarily halted by a court order last month.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officially withdrew their planned conservation efforts last week, marking an end to a months-long legal battle. George Nickas is the executive director of Wilderness Watch, who filed a legal challenge over the plan.

“We’re pleased that they withdrew it, and they recognized that what they were proposing to do violated the Wilderness Act,” Nickas said.

The spawning population of grayling in the Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge is at an all time low.

The service decided in June to construct a pipeline that would deliver dissolved oxygen to grayling wintering in Upper Red Rock Lake. Officials chose the plan from six possible alternatives.

But that plan was temporarily halted by a judge after several conservation groups, including Wilderness Watch sued. The court ruled that the service did not prove the pipeline would benefit grayling and the plan’s use of heavy machinery and permanent construction would likely violate the Wilderness Act.

Instead of continued litigation, the service has opted to abandon the plan, saying in the withdrawal notice that it “will focus on alternative conservation measures” for grayling.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service did not immediately respond to MTPR’s request for comment.

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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