WASHINGTON (CN) – The endangered bull trout will have 488,200 acres of reservoirs and lakes and 19,700 miles of streams, with 750 miles of marine shoreline, to recover in, as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has designated these areas as critical habitat.
The designation covers land in Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Idaho and Montana.
Having previously determined that “The decline of bull trout is primarily due to habitat degradation and fragmentation, blockage of migratory corridors, poor water quality, past fisheries management practices, impoundments, dams, water diversions, and the introduction of nonnative species,” the agency listed the bull trout as endangered in 1999.
The agency did not make a critical habitat designation until 2002, with additions in 2004 and 2005. In the 2005 designation, the agency identified approximately 3,800 miles of streams and 143,200 acres of lakes in Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington for protection.
These designations were challenged in 2006 by the Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Inc., and Friends of the Wild Swan, which claimed that the designations were inadequate and failed to rely on the best scientific and commercial data available.
The agency voluntarily agreed to rescind the challenged designations, and launched a new investigation-with extended periods of public comment-on the habitat needs of the bull trout.
Bull trout migrate between small streams to larger rivers and lakes and sometimes to the Pacific Ocean, returning to the streams in which they were born, to spawn. They are much more sensitive to water temperature and the cleanliness of the gravel substrate they lay their eggs on than other migratory fish. As a result, habitat preservation and restoration are the primary means the agency has used to conserve the species.