July 6, 1997 in City

Federal Protection For Bull Trout Sought Wildlife Advocates Suspicious Of Idaho’s Fish And Game Management

By The Spokesman-Review
 

FROM FOR THE RECORD (Friday, July 18, 1997): Correcetion: Clarification: The Spruce Creek timber sale in the Boise National Forest has been sold, although no timber has been cut. A story on bull trout recovery in the Spokesman-Review on July 6 may have implied otherwise.

Some wildlife advocates don’t trust the state of Idaho to side with fish over loggers when it comes to saving the bull trout.

That’s why they support federal listing under the Endangered Species Act - it’s a better guarantee that state politics won’t undermine bull trout recovery.

A public hearing on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s proposal to list the fish is scheduled for Tuesday in Spokane.

Conservationists point to Steve Mealey, the new director of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, as the embodiment of the state’s bias toward the timber industry.

Under Idaho’s bull trout plan, state officials will negotiate recovery plans with private and public land managers.

“Mealey’s fighting for industry, not for wildlife,” said Eric Ryberg of Payette Forest Watch, which fought sales on the Boise National Forest when Mealey was in charge there. “That guy logged bull trout streams like there was no tomorrow.”

Mealey spent 1991 through 1994 as supervisor of the Boise National Forest. The forest exceeded its allowable cut every year under Mealey, and doubled the allowable cut in 1993 - earning him the nickname “Butcher of the Boise” among conservationists.

Mealey is the father of Stefany Bales, who is the new spokeswoman for the Intermountain Forest Industries Association.

Bales said her kinship with Mealey doesn’t give the timber industry any extra influence with the agency that historically has been an outspoken critic of practices that harm wildlife.

“He’s a professional,” she said. “He does his job and I’m a professional and I do mine, and they’re very separate.”

Mealey said much the same. When asked about his reputation, he said, “I stand on my record. If anybody can show that any management actions I have taken have disadvantaged bull trout I’d certainly like to know that.”

Ryberg referred to the Spruce Creek Timber sale as one that hurt bull trout. In 1993, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game wrote Mealey to express concerns that the sale would degrade bull trout habitat by increasing sedimentation.

Now, sportsmen and conservationists warn that a proposed timber sale on Fish and Game property along the South Fork of the Salmon River threatens bull trout.

The South Fork of the Salmon River has been considered off-limits by Idahoans since the ‘60s, when massive landslides from logging roads destroyed a significant portion of chinook salmon spawning ground.

“It really shakes my confidence in Fish and Game,” said Charles Ray of Idaho Rivers United. “The state says, ‘We can take care of bull trout. We don’t need to list them.’ Then the very agency that’s charged to protect them, wants to charge ahead on a timber sale that nobody likes.”

The Idaho Conservation League is considering legal action if the agency goes ahead with the sale, arguing that the property was acquired to benefit wildlife.

Sportsmen groups, too, are complaining that Mealey and the new commission are straying from the agency’s responsibility to protect and preserve fish and wildlife.

Mealey’s defenders point out that the sale was planned before Mealey came to the agency. Mealey said he will abide by the advice of an agency team now reviewing the sale. The team was formed after the agency’s regional supervisors started backing away from the sale.

“The decision about that sale is going to be based on the facts,” he said. “What’s important is that we address these things on the basis of facts and realities rather than perceptions and opinions.”

When it comes to bull trout, what’s important is a commitment to saving the fish, conservationists say.

“We’ve had a lot goodwill gestures and Band-Aids that are certainly good, but haven’t tackled the main factors that have driven the bull trout into extinction,” said Mike Bader, executive director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies. “We need to take some quick action before it disappears altogether.”

, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: HEARINGS Public hearings on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposal to list bull trout under the Endangered Species Act are scheduled for July 8 at the Shilo Inn in Spokane, July 10 at the Doubletree Hotel Edgewater in Missoula and July 17 at the Doubletree Hotel Riverside in Boise. All hearings are from 2 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m.

This sidebar appeared with the story: HEARINGS Public hearings on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposal to list bull trout under the Endangered Species Act are scheduled for July 8 at the Shilo Inn in Spokane, July 10 at the Doubletree Hotel Edgewater in Missoula and July 17 at the Doubletree Hotel Riverside in Boise. All hearings are from 2 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m.


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