Comment sought on bull trout proposals

(Note: Butch Otter has been a pro-people person during his time in Congress.
He is asking for our help in adding our voices to this issue, one that is not
only important to his state and to his constituents, but is also vital to all
issues of land/water use. He also votes on issues that pertain to your
state and my state, your issues and my issues.)

February 19, 2003

By U.S. Representative Butch Otter (R-Idaho)

Contact: Mark Warbis, 208-336-9831

BOISE, Idaho - It happens time and again. A federal agency or environmental
group notices a fish, flower or field mouse hasn't been around quite as much

They decide the only solution is government intervention.

The public is asked what it thinks.

A few folks air concerns, but only the bureaucrats' views make much

Finally, land-use restrictions are imposed that wreak havoc on the
livelihoods of hardworking citizens -- innocent bystanders in the world of
the Endangered Species Act.

The people of Oregon's Klamath Basin know the story.

So do thousands of loggers and mill workers whose jobs once were the mainstay
of Idaho's rural economy.

Ask them about the Endangered Species Act and you might get an icy glare.

Then they'll tell you what they think.

The law that put northern spotted owls and black-footed ferrets on the map
has a way of getting people talking. Unfortunately, the listening end of the
equation has been a little light.

Now the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is seeking public comments on a draft
recovery plan in Idaho, Oregon, Washington and Montana for bull trout, which
was designated a threatened species in 1998. Comments also are being sought
on a proposed "critical habitat" designation for areas considered essential
for saving bull trout, including the Panhandle and much of central Idaho. The
designation requires consultation with the Fish and Wildlife Service before
any land management action is implemented, funded or even authorized by a
federal agency.

As you might expect, "consultation" can be cumbersome, time-consuming and
expensive. It can delay or block important projects designed to make our
public lands healthier and more sustainable. What's more, some of the nearly
9,000 miles of streams and more than 205,000 acres of lakes and reservoirs
within Idaho's proposed critical habitat area contain no bull trout, never
contained bull trout and -- in some cases -- are prevented by natural
barriers from ever being home to bull trout.

So, the proposed designation's scope is far too large. Use of land that has
no business being included will be subject to the closest government
scrutiny, and the public is being asked to weigh in without a thorough
economic analysis of the cost.

Something similar happened in the Klamath Basin. The U.S. Bureau of
Reclamation refused to deliver water to drought-stricken farmers there in
2001 because minimum pools had to be maintained for endangered sucker fish.
Families who had protected and improved the land for generations were ruined.

Now shift that outcome onto the Boise and Payette river drainages.

With drought a constant threat here, should the future of so many of our
neighbors be put at risk by broad-brush efforts to save a fish that already
is being helped by measures protecting other salmonids?

While the system is imperfect, only by weighing in can anyone hope to make a
difference. Nobody wants Idaho to lose its bull trout. But many of us don't
want Idaho to lose its jobs or families either. Please help me make the case
for common sense -- for including people in the equation.

Written comments on the proposed critical habitat designation can be mailed
to: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Attn: John Young, Bull Trout Coordinator,
911 N.E. 11th Avenue, Portland, Ore., 97232. They also can be faxed to John
Young at 503-231-2218, or sent via email to .

The deadline is May 12, 2003.

Written comments on the draft recovery plan can be mailed to: U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service, Snake River Basin Office, Attn: Robert Ruesink, 1387 S.
Vinnell Way, Room 368, Boise, Idaho, 83709. They also can be faxed to Robert
Ruesink at 208-378-5262, or sent via email to . The
deadline is March 29.

I also would appreciate receiving a copy of any comments you submit as an
independent record. They can be mailed to: 802 W. Bannock Street, Suite 101,
Boise, Idaho, 83702. They also can be faxed to 208-336-9891, or sent via
email to


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