BUTTE, Mont. (CN) — Inland Arctic grayling, a freshwater salmon, won’t be protected as an endangered species, a federal judge ruled, rebuffing a lawsuit from environmentalists.
The Arctic grayling is native to the Arctic Ocean but populations are found in the upper Missouri River system north of Great Falls, Mont. and in Yellowstone National Park in northwest Wyoming. It has a large, sail-like dorsal fin, a troutlike body and deeply forked tail.
Unlike most salmon, which are anadromous — spawning in fresh water, living most of their lives in salt water, then returning to fresh water to spawn — Arctic grayling are catadromous, living their entire life in fresh water, though they migrate.
The Center for Biological Diversity claimed the Arctic grayling has lost most of its habitat and its population has plummeted due to low flows and barriers in river channels, rising water temperature due partly to climate change, and increased pressures from non-native fish.
Joined by the Western Watersheds Project, the Center for Biological Diversity sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2014 after it refused to list the distinct population segment of Arctic Grayling in the upper Missouri River Basin as endangered or threatened.
After considering cross-motions for summary judgment, U.S. District Judge Sam Haddon upheld the Fish and Wildlife Service on Sept. 2.
“The Service’s 2014 finding that the upper Missouri River Arctic grayling DPS [distinct population segment] did not warrant listing under the ESA [the Endangered Species Act] was reasonable,” Haddon wrote.
“The conclusion was based on the best available science; it considered all the appropriate listing factors as mandated under the ESA, and it made a determination, based on its expertise, that the current status of the species did not warrant listing. This court upholds the 2014 finding.”
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