There was a lot of agreement at a hearing Thursday that Pacific Northwest bull trout need to be protected, but less harmony over who should do it.
Steve Mealey, Idaho Fish and Game director, told U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials that all the money they spent on studying the species would pay for Idaho’s recovery plans.
“The Endangered Species Act should be for imperiled animals, not legions of biologists providing fodder for legions of litigants and their lawyers,” Mealey said. “Take all the federal dollars spent on developing this listing, and all those you intend to spend on consultations and permits.
“Put them in a trust account and let the interest go to state recovery efforts like the governor’s plan. The fish will be much better off,” he said.
Mealey and other officials testified at a hearing on the federal agency’s proposed listing of bull trout for protection. He and other Idaho witnesses urged the agency to put off listing, so a recovery plan proposed by Gov. Phil Batt one year ago can proceed.
Aides to Rep. Michael Crapo, Sen. Dirk Kempthorne and Sen. Larry Craig said the governor’s proposal was a good idea and should be given a fair chance.
Listing the bull trout under the federal Endangered Species Act is not supported by Batt or the state, said Jason Kreizenbeck, special assistant to the governor.
“The state believes that significant protection measures have been put in place since 1994 to protect this species and reduce threats,” he said. “Under the governor’s direction, the state of Idaho has developed and is in the process of implementing a comprehensive conservation plan for the bull trout.”
Kreizenbeck said Batt feels that listing the bull trout using 1994 data will accomplish nothing.
He said the governor’s plan is in its first phase, which assesses problem areas of key watersheds.
The Alliance for the Wild Rockies urged support for bull trout listing.
The group has been pushing for listing since 1992, said spokesman Don Smith.
“The state plan doesn’t have any teeth in it,” Smith told a news conference before the hearing. He also said Batt’s proposal lacks specifics.
Idaho’s emphasis should be shifted from resource extraction toward recovery, Smith said.
Mealey said Idaho has done a lot to help bull trout since 1994, which eliminates the need for federal protection.
“Before a listing was proposed, the Idaho Fish and Game commission approved a biologically sound conservation strategy for bull trout,” he said. “That strategy formed the biological basis for the governor’s plan, which added the value of an equally sound implementation process.
“Following that plan, the state has removed threats to bull trout.”
The Idaho Conservation League’s John McCarthy contended that federal listing is the only way the species can be saved.
“The state of Idaho had its chance to come up with a credible plan for action and it failed, because it wouldn’t foot the bill,” McCarthy said.
He noted that as the hearing was held, the Idaho Fish and Game Commission was meeting with a major topic of discussion how to cut budget and staff.
“Bull trout recovery has not and will not get a financial commitment from the state of Idaho,” McCarthy said.
Boise’s hearing was the last of five on potential bull trout listing. Kreizenbeck said Idaho wants the comment period extended 60 days while it prepares its statement.
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