Bonneville Cutthroat Trout, State Fish of Utah, to Be Reconsidered for Endangered Species Protection

From: Center for Biological Diversity

SALT LAKE CITY, UT - In response to a lawsuit brought by the Center for Biological Diversity, Biodiversity Conservation Alliance, and Pacific Rivers Council, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that it will again consider the Bonneville cutthroat trout for protection as an endangered species. According to a court order issued Tuesday, the decision will be issued by October of next year.

"The Bonneville cutthroat trout is headed for extinction," said Noah Greenwald, conservation biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity. "Bonneville cutthroat need the safety net provided by the Endangered Species Act to survive."

The Fish and Wildlife Service had denied an earlier petition from the groups seeking Endangered Species Act protection for the trout. Bonneville cutthroat have been eliminated from roughly 90 percent of their range and continue to be threatened by competition, predation, and hybridization with nonnative trout, habitat loss and degradation caused by livestock grazing, water withdrawal, logging, mining, and climate change.

"In deciding to deny the Bonneville cutthroat trout protection, the Bush administration clearly got it wrong," stated McCrystie Adams, an attorney with Earthjustice who represented the groups. "We are heartened that the cutthroat trout has a second chance at the protection it deserves."

In agreeing to reconsider, Fish and Wildlife Service officials admitted that they had not properly considered whether the trout was endangered in a significant portion of its range. Given that the trout has been eliminated from the majority of this range, including the most productive habitats, this is a highly significant omission. Today, the Bonneville cutthroat trout is primarily found in isolated, high-elevation streams, where they are at risk from drought, floods, and fire. These threats will increase substantially with climate change, according to most forecasts, which places the trout in obvious danger of extinction.

"The once-abundant Bonneville cutthroat formerly provided an important source of food and sport for Native Americans and early settlers," said Erik Molvar of Biodiversity Conservation Alliance. "We need to protect these fish from extinction, and restore them, so that they can remain a vital part of Utah's natural heritage."

In response to a lawsuit brought by the Center for Biological Diversity, Biodiversity Conservation Alliance, and Pacific Rivers Council, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that it will again consider the Bonneville cutthroat trout for protection as an endangered species. According to a court order issued Tuesday, the decision will be issued by October of next year.