The Eagle Lake Rainbow Trout Gets A Second Look

     WASHINGTON (CN) – Eighteen years after first petitioned, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has accorded the Eagle Lake rainbow trout a second look for endangered status even though it cannot locate the petitioner, according to a recent 90-day petition finding.
     Read Courthouse News’ Environmental Law Review.
     The original petition was filed by John F. Bosta of Susanville, Calif., in 1994. The agency responded that his petition did not present enough information to act. Bosta petitioned again in 2003, and the agency then responded that, due to budget constraints and higher priorities, they could not act at that time, but would get to it when “workload and funding allowed.”
     Due to two 2011 settlement agreements reached in response to suits filed by WildEarth Guardians and the Center for Biological Diversity, the agency has a six-year work schedule for reaching final listing determinations for all petitioned and candidate species, so the agency is now giving the Eagle Lake rainbow trout a 12-month status review based on information in its own files, because Bosta could not be located to produce documents cited in his petition.
     The Eagle Lake rainbow trout lives only in the highly alkaline Eagle Lake in Lassen County, the second largest natural lake entirely within California. It is a large fish, up to 24 inches and 10 pounds, that is distinguished from other rainbow trout species by having two fewer chromosomes. It is late-maturing and long-lived (up to 11 years), and it tolerates the extreme alkalinity of the lake, which has no natural outlet, according to the action.
     The trout population in the lake supported commercial fishing until 1917, when it was banned by the state due to concerns that the species was being driven to extinction. Since that time, the population has remained low, possibly due to factors such as drought, water diversions, logging, heavy grazing, barriers to upstream and downstream movement, introduction of the predatory brook trout into the creek where the rainbows spawn, and road and railroad construction across that creek, which has restricted the flow and channelized the streambed, the finding states.
     Of further concern are fish stocking operations from hatchery raised fish, which may create a potential “genotype and phenotypic shift” due to changed selection pressures from those experienced by wild fish, according to the finding.
     Even though the agency found sufficient information in its own files to initiate the 12-month status review, the agency requests additional information relating to the threats this rare species faces.

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