Hearing to focus on bull trout plan - Agency will take comments on proposed recovery strategy
Spokane, WA - A recovery plan for bull trout will be the topic Thursday when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service holds a public hearing in Spokane.
Similar meetings will come later this month in Sandpoint and Libby, Mont., along with other Northwest communities.
The agency will offer information and take comments about its proposal to designate big portions of the Inland Northwest as "critical habitat" for the endangered char. That habitat includes the Pend Oreille River valley in northeastern Washington, as well as North Idaho's three big lakes and many streams flowing into them.
Logging and other activities within the habitat areas will get more scrutiny if they're done on federal land or involve federal permits.
A recovery plan written by the wildlife service also calls for "fish passage" at Boundary, Box Canyon and Albeni Falls on the Pend Oreille River. That likely means fish ladders, costing millions of dollars to build.
Bull trout can top 20 pounds and require cold, pure water. Biologists say the once-common fish have been harmed by logging, over-fishing, competition from introduced fish species and other factors.
In 1998, after several lawsuits from environmental groups, the wildlife service listed the fish as "threatened."
Thursday's hearing is scheduled from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the WestCoast Grand Hotel, 303 W. North River Drive. Wildlife Service officials will be available from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. to provide information about fish and the agency's recovery plan.
In Sandpoint, wildlife service officials will provide information from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Jan. 15, at The City Forum, 418 N. Third Avenue.
In Libby, information will be provided from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 16, at the Kootenai National Forest building, 1101 Highway 2 West.
The Sandpoint and Libby do not include public hearings. However, written comments will be accepted at both places and can also be mailed through Feb. 27 to: John Young, bull trout coordinator, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 911 NE 11th Ave., Portland, OR 97232.
More information about the bull trout proposal -- and an opportunity to comment via e-mail -- is available on the Internet at http://species.fws.gov/bulltrout.
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