US Fish & Wildlife proposes Columbia, Klamath river basins
as 'critical habitat' for bull trout - Wants to designate 532,721
acres of lake and reservoirs, 18,471 miles of streams for protection
at cost of $230 million
As part of a lawsuit settlement with two environmental groups, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to designate 18,471 miles of streams and 532,721 acres of lake and reservoirs in the Columbia and Klamath river basins as critical habitat for the bull trout.
The designations will cost taxpayers between $230 and $300 million according to an analysis released by the federal government.
Michael Garrity of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies, a party to the lawsuit, scoffed at the report. "It's not a real economic analysis," he said. "This is voodoo economics," because, according to Garrity, it focuses on the costs of bull trout protection and not the benefits.
The agency must complete the habitat designation by September 21, to comply with the court order. About 70 percent of the costs will come from mitigation (extortion) paid to the agency to instigate modifications in use, including improved fish passage; reduced water withdrawals; revised timber sales; and highway projects.
Cost of bull trout habitat would be $230 million or more
SPOKANE, Wash. - It will cost between $230 million and $300 million to protect bull trout under the Endangered Species Act in the Columbia and Klamath river basins, according to an analysis released Monday by the federal government.
The critical habitat proposals by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service cover parts of Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana.
The economic analysis, prepared by Bioeconomics Inc. of Missoula, Mont., said that most of the estimated costs of protecting bull trout habitat already are being incurred due to the listing of that fish in 1998, and because of protective measures already in place for endangered salmon and steelhead in the same river basins.
More than 60 percent of the area proposed for bull trout critical habitat has previously been classified as salmon and steelhead critical habitat, although much of that designation was withdrawn for re-analysis by the National Marine Fisheries Service.
Michael Garrity of the environmental group Alliance for the Wild Rockies said the analysis is bogus because it focuses on the costs of bull trout and not the benefits. Those benefits would include the value of clean water that would be ensured by the efforts to protect the fish, he said.
"It's not a real economic analysis," Garrity said. "This is voodoo economics."
The alliance and a companion group, Friends of the Wild Swan, went to court several years ago to force the Fish and Wildlife Service to designate critical habitat. Garrity blamed the Bush administration for slow movement on the issue.
"This is the same administration that says we shouldn't worry about arsenic in the water and mercury in the air," he said.
Bull trout often are found farther up the headwaters of drainages than salmon and steelhead. They prey on other fish and can grow to well over 24 inches. But human encroachment, mining, grazing, logging and overfishing during the past 150 years have reduced the species to about 45 percent of its native range.
The draft analysis will be available for public comment until May 5. Seven public hearings will be held between April 17-21 to gather reaction.
"Citizen participation is crucial to the development of a final designation that protects the species and is supported by the public," said Dave Allen, of the Fish and Wildlife Service.
The agency wants to designate 18,471 miles of streams and 532,721 acres of lakes and reservoirs in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana as critical habitat for the Columbia and Klamath basin populations of bull trout.
Under a court settlement, a final critical habitat designation for those two basins must be made by Sept. 21.
Federal agencies are expected to bear about 75 percent of the costs of the bull trout listing, with private and other entities, such as states and tribes, paying the rest.
Of the costs, 70 percent are estimated to come from the expense of consulting with the agency and making needed modifications, including improved fish passage; reduced water withdrawals; revised timber sales; and highway projects. The remaining 30 percent of costs are estimated to be administrative expenses.
The agency proposed critical habitat in November 2002 for bull trout in the Columbia and Klamath basins in accordance with a settlement with the two groups.
As part of the settlement, the wildlife service also agreed to designate critical habitat for the Coastal-Puget Sound (Washington), St. Mary-Belly River (Montana) and Jarbidge (Nevada) populations of bull trout. The agency will propose critical habitat for those populations in June.
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