Montana Public Radio

Environmental Groups Revive Lawsuit Over Bull Trout Recovery Plan

Nov 20, 2019

Three environmental groups are suing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over its recovery plan for bull trout, which are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The groups say the plan doesn’t provide any way to determine if and when the species is recovered.

Save the Bull Trout, Alliance for the Wild Rockies and Friends of the Wild Swan all signed onto the lawsuit filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Missoula. The case stems from an attempt by two of the groups in 2015 to sue the Fish and Wildlife Service over its recovery plan for bull trout. The plan was released that year.

Arlene Montgomery with the Friends of the Wild Swan said the lawsuit was dismissed for procedural reasons. She said the groups’ arguments that the recovery plan doesn’t provide measurable benchmarks for delisting will now be heard by the court.

“It doesn’t include population targets. So, there’s no way to tell if you reached recovery because you don’t have anything you’re aspiring to, any population goal,” Montgomery said.

The lawsuit also argues that recovery milestones specific to bull trout habitat are missing from the plan as well as five criteria explaining why the species was listed in the first place. Montgomery said the criteria also serve as a barometer for delisting.

A judge has not yet been assigned to the case. The Fish and Wildlife Service declined to comment on the lawsuit.