Bull trout habitat proposal comment period extended

By John Hanron
Methow Valley News


Methow Valley, WA - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced last week that it intends to extend the comment period for 90 days on its proposal to designate critical habitat for bull trout in the Columbia River Basin.

The current comment period expired Jan. 28. The new comment period will open after the notice of the extension is published in the Federal Register.

Last November, the USFWS proposed designating 18,471 miles of streams and 532,721 acres of lakes in the Pacific Northwest as critical habitat for the bull trout. More than 2,500 miles of stream in Washington are listed, along with 30,896 acres of lakes and reservoirs.

A number of groups formally requested more time to review the proposal, which is 651 pages long in the Federal Register.

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

The entire Methow River and most of its major tributaries were listed as proposed critical habitat for the fish. A local population spawns in the cold tributary headwaters and passes through the length of the river.

USFWS spokesman Tom Buckley said late last year that the agency tried to make the designations have as little effect as possible on humans.

"Itís an important step in identifying areas important for recovery," he said, "but it has very little impact for private landowners who arenít receiving federal grant money for land improvements or any other federal agreements having to do with the land."

The proposal has been opposed by the Washington Farm Bureau, which sent a letter to Rep. George Nethercutt, saying the agency is downplaying the impact the proposal would have on private property owners.

The letter, signed by farm bureau president Steve Appel, says farmers receiving any kind of federal farm payments will likely be impacted.

A complete description of the proposal may be found on the web at http://pacific.fws.gov/bulltrout.

Comments may be submitted electronically via that website or mailed to Bull Trout Coordinator, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Branch of Endangered Species, 911 NE 11th Ave., Portland, OR 97232. Comments may also be faxed at (503) 231-6243.


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