A moratorium on new listings under the Endangered Species Act won’t keep the Forest Service from taking steps to protect the bull trout on national forests, Chief Jack Ward Thomas says.
“I think we need to move ahead with something,” Thomas told a Senate panel Wednesday. He said his experience with the northern spotted owl convinced him that delaying aid for troubled species is a mistake.
Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, suggested the listings ban, in effect until Sept. 30, might give the Forest Service a reprieve from pressures to assess protection strategies for the fish.
“Given that the reason for the new strategy was to avoid a listing and that we now have a moratorium on listings, wouldn’t it be prudent to cancel the bull trout strategy as unnecessary?” Craig asked.
“It might be prudent in the political sense,” Thomas said.
“Whether it would be prudent in the biological sense is another question.”
Tentative strategies to protect “inland” fish species in the Pacific Northwest and Northern Rocky Mountains, including bull trout and Western cutthroat trout, are based on concerns raised by biologists at the Fish and Wildlife Service as well as at the Forest Service, Thomas said.
Fish and Wildlife last year ruled that protection of he bull trout under the Endangered Species Act was warranted, but “precluded” because higher priority species were on the waiting list.
Since then the agency has moved the bull trout up near the top of the priority list. It is expected to propose this summer that the fish be declared a threatened or endangered species.
The moratorium on new listings was recently signed into law by President Clinton as part of a supplemental appropriation bill. It does not prohibit proposed listings, which generally precede actual listings by about a year.
Aside from the Endangered Species Act, Thomas said the National Forest Management Act requires that the Forest Service act to keep the bull trout from going extinct.