Bull Trout Plan Met With Skepticism


Yakima, WA - 1/14/03 - About 60 people, a number of them clearly skeptical about what the future holds for them, brought numerous questions to an information meeting Monday on proposals to recover bull trout.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, responsible for protecting the species listed as threatened in 1998, conducted the two-hour session at the Yakima Convention Center.

Steelhead trout was also added to the endangered species list as threatened a year later.

Monday's meeting was one of a series of such events as well as formal public hearings throughout the region the remainder of this month.

The service is proposing a series of actions to restore the fish along with designating habitat that is crucial to expanding the existing population. Critical habitat covers 5 percent of the rivers and streams in the basin, according agency estimates. Maps provided for the meeting indicated the Yakima and Naches rivers and many tributaries and the five major reservoirs are designated as habitat critical to bull trout survival.

The number of bull trout in the Yakima River Basin is thought to be about 1,200 adults. The Fish and Wildlife Service's recovery plan seeks to have a range of 2,500 to more than 3,000 bull trout living in basin streams and lakes.

Expected to take up to 25 years to complete, the program to restore bull trout in the Yakima River Basin is estimated to cost $35 million. The figure does not include the cost of adding fish ladders at the reservoirs. The lack of ladders is considered a key impediment to restoring the fish.

The critical habitat piece of the puzzle should be completed in October of this year, followed sometime later by a recovery plan.

Susan Martin, supervisor of the service's Spokane office, said she believes the plan will work to restore bull trout and lead to its ultimate removal from the endangered species list.

"We feel we have developed a workable proposal, recognizing the needs of the species and the impact on landowners," she said.

But many in the audience appeared uncertain about that.

Bruce Coe, the newly appointed Kittitas County commissioner, suggested the service should lease private land if the property is thought necessary to restoring bull trout.

"Why don't you take the money you are spending on lawsuits and ill-designed economic studies and say we will lease from you the land we need and compensate you?" he asked.


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