Bull trout listed as 'threatened'

On Thursday, Oct. 28, the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife

Service (USF&WS) officially listed the Coastal-Puget Sound bull trout as

a "threatened" species.

When added to conservation efforts recently introduced for

several species of salmon, the listing will undoubtedly translate into more work

for the timber industry, local and regional governments, developers and

other parties, as efforts are made to restore the bull trout's environment.

The bull trout (salvelinus confluentus) is a char of the

salmon family. Non-migratory fish generally reach 12 inches in length, but

migratory bull trout are capable of reaching three-feet in length and weigh as

much as 32 pounds. It is a cold water fish that spawns in the fall and hatches

in the spring; at one time, their range included all major river systems

of Alaska, California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Washington,

British Columbia and Alberta.

The service first proposed listing the fish in June 1997, following

studies which indicated the trout's numbers were dwindling in the face of

reduced habitat and pressure from over-fishing and development.

According to the Fish and Wildlife Service, the species now

exists primarily in headwater streams in low numbers. The fish is extinct in

Northern California, while populations in the Columbia and Klamath River

basins are already listed as threatened.

Reasons for their decline include habitat degradation; blockage of

migratory corridors by dams; poor water quality; the introduction of

non-native species; and the effects of past fisheries-management practices.

The service adds that sedimentation, dewatering of stream habitat, and

elevated stream temperatures have further cut back on suitable bull trout habitat.

Specific recovery methods are yet to be determined, but according to

a release from King County Executive Ron Sims, the USF&WS is

considering a special rule that would allow state and local governments to develop

their own conservation plans for bull trout.

"We are very pleased that U.S. Fish and Wildlife is working

with Snohomish, King and Pierce Counties to create conservation plans," said

Tim Ceis, director of King County's Endangered Species Act Policy

Coordination Office. "Creating our own plans will allow us to continue to

provide local government services, promote economic growth, and ensure

our quality of life."

Generally, the Service is looking at methods already employed

with endangered salmon, including restricting fishing, prohibiting the

introduction of non-native fish species, and protecting bull trout habitats from

the effects of timber harvest and road-building activities.

"We're not surprised by this listing," commented Sims, "and we

have been working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for the past

several months. The conditions that have contributed to the decline of the

Puget Sound chinook salmon are affecting other species such as the bull trout.

"Our watershed-based response plans are designed to address

ecosystem and multi-species problems. We're ready to solve these problems."

King County's salmon recovery strategy and other endangered

species information are posted on the county's Web site, Information on tri-county

salmon-recovery efforts is posted at

Citizens who are interested in volunteering for habitat restoration

or other salmon-recovery operations can call the Salmon Information Center

at (877) SALMON-9 (725-6669).

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