Idaho’s governor is turning to a different federal law to avoid Endangered Species Act protection for the bull trout.
The Clean Water Act is a linchpin of Gov. Phil Batt’s conservation plan for the fish.
Batt is inviting comment on a draft version of the plan, which would make trout protection a responsibility of watershed advisory groups. The citizen groups were established to make sure the state complies with federal water quality rules.
Too much sediment in streams is a violation of the Clean Water Act. It’s also one reason bull trout are disappearing.
If the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decides this spring that Batt’s idea will work, the agency might decide once again not to list the trout as endangered.
Timber industry representatives fear that a listing would make the trout the Inland Northwest’s “spotted owl” - a species whose protection could hurt their livelihoods. They support the Idaho Bull Trout Conservation Plan.
But conservationists are skeptical. They say the plan would delay action and lacks a time line for on-the-ground improvements.
The plan identifies places where bull trout most likely can be saved, calls for a bull trout restoration coordinator, establishes local groups to identify and solve problems faced by the fish, and allows development of habitat conservation agreements with landowners.
The plan will be discussed at 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. meetings in Sandpoint on Thursday at the Federal Building on U.S. Highway 2 and in Coeur d’Alene on Feb. 13 at the Idaho Department of Fish and Game office, 2750 Kathleen.
Copies of the plan are available from the Fish and Game Department, at the Sandpoint and Coeur d’Alene public libraries and on the internet at http://www.stat.id.us/pr/bulltrt.txt.