Lawsuit filed for Colorado River Cutthroats
by Cat Urbigkit, Pinedale Online!
November 29, 2009
The Center for Biological Diversity filed a federal lawsuit last week that seeks Endangered Species Act protection for the Colorado River Cutthroat Trout.
"The Colorado River cutthroat trout has been lost from most of its range and needs the protection of the Endangered Species Act," said Noah Greenwald, endangered species program director at the Center for Biological Diversity. "The only reason the trout was denied protection was because of a Bush policy that called for ignoring a species’ lost historic range when determining whether a species is endangered."
The Bush policy relates to the definition of the term endangered under the Endangered Species Act, which specifies that a species will be considered endangered if it is "in danger of extinction in all or a significant of portion of its range." The phrase "significant portion of its range" is important, because it means that species need not be at risk of extinction globally to receive protection.
The Bush-era policy, which was issued by the solicitor of the Department of the Interior, specified that when determining whether a species is endangered in a significant portion of its range, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service should only consider current and not historic range — effectively chopping protection off at the knees. The policy and its impact on decisions to list species, including the trout, was recently discussed in a peer-reviewed study in the international journal Conservation Biology.
"The Colorado River cutthroat trout was denied protection even though the Fish and Wildlife Service acknowledged that it has been lost from 87 percent of its historic range and continues to face threats from habitat degradation, nonnative trout, and increasingly climate change," said Greenwald. "This is an absurd result that threatens the survival of this unique and beautiful fish."
One of the most spectacular of the colorful cutthroat trout, the Colorado River cutthroat has a crimson belly and distinct black spots covering the tail, sides, and back. It was historically found in portions of Wyoming Colorado, Utah, and extreme northern New Mexico and Arizona.