Critical Habitat Proposed for Washington's Coastal-Puget Sound Population of Bull Trout Proposal will publish in the June 25 edition of the Federal Register

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service News Release

For Release on June 22, 2004


Contact: Doug Zimmer, Lacey, Washington 360-753-4370
Taylor Pittman, Lacey, Washington 360-753-4375
Jeff Chan, Lacey, Washington 360-753-9542
Shelley Spalding, Lacey, Washington 360-753-7762

Critical Habitat Proposed for Washington's Coastal-Puget Sound Population of Bull Trout

Proposal will publish in the June 25 edition of the Federal Register

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing critical habitat for the Coastal-Puget Sound population of bull trout, which was listed as a threatened species in 1999.

Bull trout (Salvelinus confluentus), is a threatened species protected under the Federal Endangered Species Act. The Service's action is in response to a lawsuit filed by the Alliance for the Wild Rockies and Friends of the Wild Swan.

The Coastal-Puget Sound population is located west of the Cascade mountains in the state of Washington. It includes bull trout in the Puget Sound Management Unit and the Olympic Peninsula Management Unit. The Puget Sound Management Unit includes all watersheds within the Puget Sound basin and the marine near-shore areas of Puget Sound. The Olympic Peninsula Management Unit includes all watersheds within the Olympic Peninsula and the near-shore marine waters of the Pacific Ocean, Strait of Juan de Fuca and Hood Canal.

The critical habitat proposal calls for a total of 2,290 miles of streams in western Washington to be designated as bull trout critical habitat, along with 52,540 acres of lakes and reservoirs and marine habitat paralleling 985 miles of shoreline. Details of the critical habitat proposal will be included in the maps and documents that are published along with the rule in the Federal Register.

"Our proposal is based on the best available science and includes areas that contain qualities that may be essential to the conservation and recovery of bull trout in western Washington," said Dave Allen, Regional Director of the Service's Pacific Region. "To ensure that the final critical habitat designation is as accurate as possible we encourage people to review our proposal in detail and provide comments and any additional information they believe is relevant."

When considering which areas to include in the proposed critical habitat rule, the Service required that areas contain one or both of the following:

(1) spawning, rearing, foraging, or over-wintering habitat to support essential existing bull trout local populations;

(2) movement corridors necessary for maintaining essential migratory life-history forms of the species.

The proposal excludes properties where special management for bull trout already exists, such as an approved Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP), designated private lands under state regulations based on the Washington Forest and Fish Report (FFR), Integrated Natural Resource Management Plan (INRMP), or other natural resource plan. These plans, developed cooperatively with the Service, demonstrate a long-term commitment to conserve and benefit the species and the habitat on which it depends.

Today's proposal of critical habitat for the bull trout exempts lands covered by the Washington Department of Natural Resources, City of Seattle Cedar River Watershed, Tacoma Water, and Simpson Timber Company HCPs; private timber lands covered under the FFR-based regulations; the Jim Creek Naval Antenna Station near Arlington, Washington covered under an INRMP; and the Quinault Indian Reservation covered under an approved Forest Management Plan.

"We appreciate the initiative of the agencies and tribes that have worked cooperatively with us to protect bull trout," said Ken Berg, Manager of the Service's Western Washington Fish and Wildlife Office. "We will continue, between now and the final critical habitat designation, to work with any interested parties to develop special management plans."

The public will have until August 25, 2004, to comment on the proposal and provide comments and additional information. An economic analysis of the critical habitat proposal will be prepared and made available for public comment before a final decision is made. The Service may exclude areas from the final designation if the benefit of exclusion outweighs the benefit of inclusion. Over the next few months, the Service will be considering whether all of the areas in both management units are essential to the conservation of the species.

The Coastal-Puget Sound population of bull trout is one of five populations of bull trout, which is protected as a threatened species throughout its range in the coterminous United States, spanning parts of Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana and Nevada.

Two public information meetings and two public hearings will occur in July and August.

Public meetings are set for:

July 12, 2004 Sequim, Washington, Dungeness River Audubon Center, 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.

July 14, 2004 Edmonds, Washington, Edmonds City Hall, 121 5th Avenue North, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Hearings are set for:

Aug. 10, 2004 Tumwater, WA, Comfort Inn, (Exit 101 off Interstate 5), 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Information will be available one hour before the start of each hearing.

Critical habitat is a term in the Endangered Species Act. It identifies geographic areas that contain features essential for the conservation of a threatened or endangered species and may require special management considerations. The designation of critical habitat does not affect land ownership or establish a refuge, wilderness, reserve, preserve, or other conservation area. It does not allow government or public access to private lands.

In 30 years of implementing the Endangered Species Act, the Service has found that the designation of critical habitat provides little additional protection to most listed species, while preventing the Service from using scarce conservation resources for activities with greater conservation benefits.

In almost all cases, recovery of listed species will come through voluntary cooperative partnerships, not regulatory measures such as critical habitat.

Habitat is also protected through cooperative measures under the Endangered Species Act including Habitat Conservation Plans, Safe Harbor Agreements, Candidate Conservation Agreements and state programs. In addition, voluntary partnership programs such as the Service's Private Stewardship Grants and Partners for Fish and Wildlife program also restore habitat.

Habitat for endangered species is provided on many national wildlife refuges, managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and state wildlife management areas.

The Alliance for the Wild Rockies and Friends of the Wild Swan originally sued the Service for not designating critical habitat after listing bull trout in 1999 as threatened throughout its range in the lower 48 states.

At the time, the Service had been unable to complete critical habitat determinations because of budget constraints.

In accordance with a court settlement, reached in January 2002 by the Service, the Alliance for the Wild Rockies and Friends of the Wild Swan, the Service also committed to propose critical habitat for the Jarbidge River (Nevada) population of bull trout and the St. Mary-Belly River (Montana) population of bull trout. For the Jarbidge River population, the Service has proposed 131 miles of streams in Idaho and Nevada as bull trout critical habitat. For the St. Mary-Belly River population, 88 miles of streams and 6,295 acres of lakes in Montana are proposed as critical habitat for bull trout.

In November 2001, also in accordance with the court settlement, the Service proposed to designate 18,175 miles of rivers and streams and 498,782 acres of lakes and reservoirs in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana as critical habitat for the Columbia River population of bull trout.

The Service also proposed at that time to designate 396 miles of streams and 3,939 acres of lakes and marshes in Oregon as critical habitat for the Klamath River Basin population of bull trout. Those proposals are expected to be finalized in September 2004.

Bull trout have declined due to habitat degradation and fragmentation, blockage of migratory corridors, poor water quality, past fisheries management, and the introduction of non-native species such as brown, lake, and brook trout. While bull trout occur over a large area, many of the populations are small and isolated from each other, making them more susceptible to local extinctions.

Bull trout are members of the char subgroup of the salmon family. They require very cold, clean water to thrive and are excellent indicators of water quality and stream health. Char have light-colored spots on a darker background, the reverse of the dark-spots-on-light-background pattern of trout and salmon. Bull trout have a large, flattened head and pale-yellow to crimson body spots on an olive green to brown background. They lack teeth in the roof of the mouth.

Some bull trout populations are migratory, spending portions of their life cycle in larger rivers, lakes or marine environments before returning to smaller streams to spawn, while others complete their entire life cycle in the same stream. They can grow to more than 20 pounds in lake environments and live up to 12 years. Under exceptional circumstances, they can live more than 20 years.

The critical habitat proposal for the Coastal-Puget Sound population of bull trout, and for the Jarbidge River and St. Mary-Belly River populations, will be published in the Federal Register on June 25, 2004 initiating a 60-day comment period that ends on August 25, 2004.

Comments may be sent to John Young, Bull Trout Coordinator, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 911 N.E. 11th Avenue, Portland, OR 97232.

Comments may also be submitted on the Pacific Region's Bull Trout Web site at or faxed to John Young at 503-231-6243.

Maps, fact sheets, photographs and other materials relating to today's announcement may be found on the Pacific Region's Bull Trout Web site at Television stations interested in video footage of bull trout may call the Service's Regional External Affairs Office at 503-231-6121.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which encompasses 544 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resources offices and 81 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign and Native American tribal governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Assistance program, which distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.

The US FWS site for the bull trout Olympic Peninsula and Puget Sound Units may be found at...



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