Federal Register: November 29, 2002 (Volume 67, Number 230)
DOCID: FR Doc 02-29232
DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR
Veterans Affairs Department
CFR Citation: 50 CFR Part 17
RIN ID: RIN 1018-AI52
NOTICE: Part II
DOCUMENT ACTION: Proposed rule.
Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Proposed Designation of Critical Habitat for the Klamath River and Columbia River Distinct Population Segments of Bull Trout
DATES: We will consider all comments on this proposed rule received until the close of business on January 28, 2003. We will hold public hearings from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the following locations on the dates specified: Wenatchee, WA, on January 7, 2003; Polson, MT, on January 7, 2003; Salmon, ID, on January 7, 2003; Spokane, WA, on January 9, 2003; Lewiston, ID, on January 9, 2003; Boise, ID, on January 14, 2003; Eugene, OR, on January 14, 2003; Pendleton, OR, on January 16, 2003; and Klamath Falls, OR, on January 22, 2003. (See the Public Hearings section for additional information, including specific addresses for each location.)
We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), propose designation of critical habitat for the Klamath River and Columbia River distinct population segments of bull trout (Salvelinus confluentus) pursuant to the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). For the Klamath River distinct population segment (DPS), the proposed critical habitat designation includes approximately 476 kilometers (km) (296 miles (mi)) of streams and 13,735 hectares (ha) (33,939 acres (ac)) of lakes and marshes in Oregon. For the Columbia River DPS, the proposed critical habitat designation totals approximately 29,251 km (18,175 mi) of streams and 201,850 ha (498,782 ac) of lakes and reservoirs, which includes: approximately 14,416 km (8,958 mi) of streams and 83,219 ha (205,639 ac) of lakes and reservoirs in the State of Idaho; 5,341 km (3,319 mi) of streams and 88,051 ha (217,577 ac) of lakes and reservoirs in the State of Montana; 5,460 km (3,391 mi) of streams and 18,077 ha (44,670 ac) of lakes and reservoirs in the State of Oregon; and 4,034 km (2,507 mi) of streams and 12,503 ha (30,897 ac) of lakes and reservoirs in the State of Washington.
If this proposal is made final, Federal agencies will be required to meet the requirements of section 7(a)(2) of the Act with regard to critical habitat. Specifically, Federal agencies shall, in consultation with us, ensure that any action they authorize, fund, or carry out is not likely to result in the destruction or adverse modification of critical habitat. The term ``destruction or adverse modification'' means direct or indirect alteration that appreciably diminishes the value of the critical habitat for both the survival and recovery of a listed species (50 CFR 402.02). Section 4(b)(2) of the Act requires our designation of critical habitat to be made on the basis of the best scientific data available and after taking into consideration the economic impact, and any other relevant impact, of specifying any particular area as critical habitat.
We solicit data and comments from the public on all aspects of this proposal, including data on economic and other impacts of the designation. We may revise this proposal prior to final designation to address new information received during the comment period.
Interior Department, Fish and Wildlife Service,
Bull trout (Salvelinus confluentus) are members of the char subgroup of the family Salmonidae and are native to waters of western North America. The historic range of bull trout includes major river basins in the Pacific Northwest from about 41[deg] N to 60[deg] N latitude, extending south to the McCloud River in northern California and the Jarbidge River in Nevada, and north to the headwaters of the Yukon River in Northwest Territories, Canada (Cavender 1978; Bond 1992). To the west, bull trout range includes Puget Sound, various coastal rivers of British Columbia, Canada, and southeast Alaska (Bond 1992). Bull trout are relatively dispersed in the Columbia River and Snake River basins, extending east to headwater streams in Montana and Idaho, and into Canada. Bull trout also occur in the Klamath River basin of southcentral Oregon. East of the Continental Divide in Canada, bull trout are found in the headwaters of the Saskatchewan River in Alberta and the MacKenzie River system in Alberta and British Columbia (Cavender 1978; Brewin and Brewin 1997).
Bull trout were first described as Salmo spectabilis by Girard in 1856, and subsequently described under various names, such as Salmo confluentus and Salvelinus malma (Cavender 1978). Bull trout and Dolly Varden (Salvelinus malma) previously were considered a single species (Cavender 1978; Bond 1992). However, in 1980, the American Fisheries Society formally recognized bull trout and Dolly Varden as separate species based on various specific physical differences and distributional information (Cavender 1978; Robins et al. 1980). Bull trout have an elongated body and large mouth, with the maxilla (jaw) extending beyond the eye and with welldeveloped teeth on both jaws and head of the vomer (a bone in teleost fishes that forms the front part of the roof of the mouth and often bears teeth). Bull trout have 11 dorsal fin rays, 9 anal fin rays, and the caudal fin is slightly forked. Although they are often olive green to brown with paler sides, color is variable with locality and habitat.
Bull trout exhibit a number of lifehistory strategies. Stream
resident bull trout complete their entire life cycle in the tributary
streams where they spawn and rear. Some bull trout are migratory,
spawning in tributary streams where juvenile fish usually rear from 1
to 4 years before migrating to either a larger river (fluvial) or lake
(adfluvial) where they spend their adult life, returning to the
tributary stream to spawn (Fraley and Shepard 1989). These migratory
forms occur in areas where conditions allow for movement from upper
watershed spawning streams to larger downstream waters that contain
greater foraging opportunities (Dunham and Rieman 1999). Resident and
migratory forms may be found together, and either form can produce
resident or migratory offspring (Rieman and McIntyre 1993). Bull trout in the CoastalPuget Sound area are believed to include an
anadromous form which migrates to saltwater to mature, returning to streams to spawn (64 FR 58912).
The size of bull trout is variable depending on lifehistory strategy. Resident bull trout tend to be small, averaging 200 millimeters (mm) (8 inches (in)) in length and rarely exceeding 305 mm (12 in). Adults that migrate to larger downstream rivers average about 405 mm (16 in), and often exceed 610 mm (24 in) (Goetz 1989). Maximum sizes are reached in large lakes and reservoirs where adults grow over 685 mm (27 in) in length and 10 kilograms (kg) (22 pounds (lbs)) in weight (McPhail and Baxter 1996). The largest recorded bull trout was taken in Lake Pend Oreille, Idaho, in 1949; it was almost 1 meter (m) (39 in) long and weighed 14.6 kg (32 lbs) (Simpson and Wallace 1982).
Under appropriate conditions, bull trout regularly live to 10 years, and under exceptional circumstances, reach ages in excess of 20 years (Fraley and Shepard 1989; McPhail and Baxter 1996). They normally reach sexual maturity in 4 to 7 years.
Bull trout are opportunistic feeders, with food habits that primarily are a function of size and life history strategy. Resident and juvenile migratory bull trout prey on terrestrial and aquatic insects, macrozooplankton, and small fish (Donald and Alger 1993; McPhail and Baxter 1996). Adult migratory bull trout feed almost exclusively on other fish (Rieman and McIntyre 1993).
Bull trout have more specific habitat requirements than most other salmonids (Rieman and McIntyre 1993). Habitat components that particularly influence their distribution and abundance include water temperature, cover, channel form and stability, spawning and rearing substrate conditions, and migratory corridors (Fraley and Shepard 1989; Goetz 1989; Watson and Hillman 1997).
Relatively cold water temperatures are characteristic of bull trout habitat. Water temperatures above 15 [deg]Celsius (C) (59
[deg]Fahrenheit (F)) are believed to limit their distribution (Fraley and Shepard 1989; Rieman and McIntyre 1996). Although adults have been observed in large rivers throughout the Columbia River basin in water temperatures up to 20 [deg]C (68 [deg]F), Gamett (1999) documented steady and substantial declines in abundance in stream reaches where water temperature ranged from 15 to 20 [deg]C (59 to 68 [deg]F). Thus, water temperature may partially explain the generally patchy distribution of bull trout in a watershed. In large rivers, bull trout are often observed ``dipping'' into the lower reaches of tributary streams, and it is suspected that cooler waters in these tributary mouths may provide important thermal refugia, allowing them to forage, migrate, and overwinter in waters that would otherwise be, at least seasonally, too warm. Spawning areas often are associated with cold water springs, groundwater infiltration, and the coldest streams in a given watershed (Pratt 1992; Rieman and McIntyre 1993; Rieman et al. 1997).
Throughout their lives, bull trout require complex forms of cover, including large woody debris, undercut banks, boulders, and pools (Fraley and Shepard 1989; Watson and Hillman 1997). Juveniles and adults frequently inhabit side channels, stream margins, and pools with suitable cover (Sexauer and James 1997). McPhail and Baxter (1996) reported that newly emerged fry are secretive and hide in gravel along stream edges and in side channels. They also reported that juveniles are found mainly in pools but also in riffles and runs that they maintain focal sites near the bottom, and that they are strongly associated with instream cover, particularly overhead cover. Bull trout have been observed overwintering in deep beaver ponds or pools containing large woody debris (Jakober 1995). Adult bull trout migrating to spawning areas have been recorded as staying two to four weeks at the mouths of spawning tributaries in deeper holes or near log or cover debris (Fraley and Shepard (1989)).
The stability of stream channels and stream flows are important habitat characteristics for bull trout populations (Rieman and McIntyre 1993). The side channels, stream margins, and pools with suitable cover for bull trout are sensitive to activities that directly or indirectly affect stream channel stability and alter natural flow patterns. For example, altered stream flow in the fall may disrupt bull trout during the spawning period, and channel instability may decrease survival of eggs and young juveniles in the gravel during winter through spring (Fraley and Shepard 1989; Pratt 1992; Pratt and Huston 1993).
Watson and Hillman (1997) concluded that watersheds must have specific physical characteristics to provide the necessary habitat requirements for bull trout spawning and rearing, and that the characteristics are not necessarily ubiquitous throughout the watersheds in which bull trout occur. The preferred spawning habitat of bull trout consists of lowgradient stream reaches with loose, clean gravel (Fraley and Shepard 1989). Bull trout typically spawn from August to November during periods of decreasing water temperatures (Swanberg 1997). However, migratory forms are known to begin spawning migrations as early as April, and to move upstream as much as 250 km (155 mi) to spawning areas (Fraley and Shepard 1989; Swanberg 1997). Fraley and Shepard (1989) reported that initiation of spawning by bull trout in the Flathead River system appeared to be related largely to water temperature, with spawning initiated when water temperatures dropped below 910 [deg]C (48 to 50 [deg]F). Goetz (1989) reported a temperature range from 4 to 10 [deg]C (39 to 50 [deg]F) (Goetz 1989). Such areas often are associated with coldwater springs or groundwater upwelling (Rieman et al. 1997; Baxter et al. 1999). Fraley and Shepard (1989) also found that groundwater influence and proximity to cover are important factors influencing spawning site selection. They reported that the combination of relatively specific requirements resulted in a restricted spawning distribution in relation to available stream habitat.
Depending on water temperature, egg incubation is normally 100 to 145 days (Pratt 1992). Water temperatures of 1.2 to 5.4 [deg]C (34.2 to 41.7 [deg]F) have been reported for incubation, with an optimum (best embryo survivorship) temperature reported to be from 2 to 4 [deg]C (36 to 39 [deg]F) (Fraley and Shepard 1989; McPhail and Baxter 1996). Juveniles remain in the substrate after hatching, such that the time from egg deposition to emergence of fry can exceed 200 days. During the relatively long incubation period in the gravel, bull trout eggs are especially vulnerable to fine sediments and water quality degradation (Fraley and Shepard 1989). Increases in fine sediment appear to reduce egg survival and emergence (Pratt 1992). Juveniles are likely similarly affected. High juvenile densities have been reported in areas characterized by a diverse cobble substrate and a low percent of fine sediments (Shepard et al. 1984).
The ability to migrate is important to the persistence of local
bull trout subpopulations (Rieman and McIntyre 1993; Gilpin 1997;
Rieman and Clayton 1997; Rieman et al. 1997). Bull trout rely on
migratory corridors to move from spawning and rearing habitats to
foraging and overwintering habitats and back. Migratory bull trout
become much larger than resident fish in the more productive waters of
larger streams and lakes, leading to increased reproductive potential
(McPhail and Baxter 1996). The use of migratory corridors by bull trout
also results in increased dispersion, facilitating gene flow among local populations when individuals
from different local populations interbreed, stray, or return to nonnatal streams. Also, local populations that have been extirpated by catastrophic events may become reestablished as a result of movements by bull trout through migratory corridors (Rieman and McIntyre 1993, Montana Bull Trout Scientific Group (MBTSG) 1998).
While stream habitats have received more attention, lakes and reservoirs also figure prominently in meeting the life cycle requirements of bull trout. For adfluvial bull trout populations, lakes and reservoirs provide an important component of the core foraging, migrating, and overwintering habitat, and are integral to maintaining the adfluvial life history strategy that is commonly exhibited by bull trout. When juvenile bull trout emigrate downstream to a lake or reservoir from the spawning and rearing streams in the headwaters, they enter a more productive lentic environment that allows them to achieve rapid growth and energy storage. Typically, juvenile bull trout are at least two years old and 100 mm (4 inches) or longer upon entry to the lake environment. For the next 24 years they grow rapidly. At a typical age of five years or older, when total length normally exceeds 400 mm (16 inches), they reach sexual maturity. The lake environment provides the necessary attributes of food, space, and shelter for the subadult fish to prepare for the rigors of migratory passage upstream to the natal spawning area, a migration that may last as long as six months and cover distances as much as 250 km (155 mi) upriver.
When adfluvial bull trout reach adulthood and complete the spawning migration, mating in the fall in the stream where they originated, they usually return downstream to the lake very rapidly. Adult adfluvial bull trout may live as long as 20 years and can complete multiple migrations between the lake and the spawning stream. In many populations, alternate year spawning is the normal pattern, and adult fish may require as much as 20 months in the lake or reservoir habitat to facilitate adequate energy storage and gamete development before they return to spawn again.
In comparison to streams, lake and reservoir environments are relatively more secure from catastrophic natural events. They provide a sanctuary for bull trout, allowing them to quickly rebound from temporary adverse conditions in the spawning and rearing habitat. For example, if a major wildfire burns a drainage and eliminates most or all aquatic life (a rare occurrence), bull trout subadults and adults that survive in the lake may return the following year to repopulate the system. In this way, lakes and reservoirs provide an important adaptive element of the adfluvial life history strategy.
The construction of reservoirs may have had adverse effects to bull trout, but some reservoirs also have provided unintended benefits. For example, the basin of Hungry Horse Reservoir has functioned adequately for fifty years as a surrogate home for stranded Flathead Lake bull trout trapped upstream of the dam when it was completed. While this is an artificial impoundment, the habitat the reservoir provides and the presence of an enhanced prey base of native minnows, suckers, and whitefish within the reservoir sustain a large adfluvial bull trout population. Additionally, while barriers to migration are often viewed as a negative consequence of dams, the connectivity barrier at Hungry Horse Dam has also served an important, albeit unintended, function in restricting the proliferation of nonnative Salvelinus species (brook trout and lake trout) from downstream areas upstream above the dam.
In addition to considering various habitat features and other factors that relate to individuals and populations of bull trout in relatively localized areas, attention also is being given to broader scale considerations of the distribution and abundance of bull trout, based on applying the theories and principles of conservation biology and metapopulation dynamics (Rieman and McIntyre 1993; Kanda 1998). Conservation biology is a scientific discipline that has emerged from a basis in several other sciences (e.g., population genetics, demography, biogeography, and community ecology) and addresses applied problems in conservation, especially diversity, scarcity, and extinction (Noss and Cooperrider 1994). A metapopulation is an interacting network of local subpopulations, in which individual demographics units are connected through dispersal and migration with varying frequencies of gene flow among them (Meefe and Carroll 1994). Metapopulation models are used in conservation biology to describe the structure and dynamics of populations that occur in different locations across a landscape and to identify subpopulations, habitat patches, and links between habitat patches that are of crucial importance to maintaining the overall metapopulation. Under conditions where metapopulation dynamics are functioning, providing an appropriate amount and spatial distribution of habitat to support metapopulations can be crucial to reducing the risk of extinction of a species or population because even though local subpopulations may become extinct, they can be replaced (reestablished) by individuals from other local subpopulations or populations.
One of the key factors influencing the distribution and abundance of bull trout is the extent to which habitat patches in sufficient number and proximity provide for the natural reestablishment of local subpopulations. The rate at which reestablishment might occur is another key factor. Because bull trout exhibit strong homing fidelity when spawning and their rate of straying appears to be low, natural reestablishment of extinct local subpopulations may take a very long time even if habitat connectivity is retained.
Genetic diversity in bull trout is another issue of concern, and is related to the distribution and abundance of bull trout habitat and populations. Habitat alteration, primarily through construction of impoundments, dams, and water diversions, has substantially increased habitat fragmentation, eliminated migratory corridors, and isolated bull trout, often in the headwaters of tributaries (Rieman et al. 1997). In their review of the status of bull trout populations in Oregon, Ratliff and Howell (1992) described various factors that have resulted in bull trout populations becoming largely fragmented and isolated in the upper reaches of drainages, with most of the remaining populations being the resident form of bull trout, rather than the migratory forms that would have used the lower stream reaches that now have been altered by various types of developments or by cumulative impacts from upstream areas. Ratliff and Howell specifically noted that habitat fragmentation and the resulting isolation of populations can exacerbate problems facing declining populations, including reduced genetic variability that can lead to inbreeding depression, further lowering productivity and increasing the risk of extinction. They described the loss of fluvial and adfluvial life histories as a major concern for bull trout conservation, noting that these larger fish have greater reproductive potential because of their increased fecundity and also are less likely to hybridize with the smaller brook trout that often cooccur in spawning areas.
Genetic diversity enhances longterm survival of a species by
increasing the likelihood that the species is able to survive changing environmental conditions. For instance, a local
population of bull trout may contain individuals with genes that enhance their ability to survive in the prevailing local environmental conditions (Leary et al. 1993; Spruell et al. 1999; Hard 1995). Individuals with a different genetic complement may persist in the local population in much lower abundance than those with locally adapted genes. However, if environmental conditions change due to natural processes or human activities, the survival of individuals adapted to previous conditions may no longer be enhanced. Individuals with the alternative genetic complement may increase in relative abundance if their survival is enhanced in the altered environmental conditions. Moreover, considerable genetic diversity may be distributed among local populations so that changing environmental conditions could lead to extirpation of a local population of bull trout, but the area could be repopulated by individuals from another local population that possess genes whose survival is enhanced under the new conditions. If the overall genetic diversity distributed across local populations of bull trout is reduced by the loss of local populations, the ability of the species to respond to changing conditions is likewise reduced, leading to a higher likelihood of extinction (Rieman and McIntyre 1993; Leary et al. 1993; Spruell et al. 1999; Hard 1995; Rieman and Allendorf 2001).
Bull trout populations contain low levels of genetic variability within them compared to relatively high levels of divergence and variability exhibited among populations (Leary et al. 1993; Leary and Allendorf 1997; Spruell et al. 1999; Taylor et al. 1999). For example, Leary et al. (1993) state that ``* * * a relatively high amount (40%) of the total genetic variation within the Columbia River drainage is * * * due to genetic differences among samples. This is in striking contrast to the results * * * with rainbow trout and * * * with chinook salmon * * * where only 10% of the total genetic variation was due to genetic differences among populations sampled from a geographical area similar to that of our samples of bull trout.'' This type of genetic structuring indicates limited gene flow among bull trout populations, which may encourage local adaption within individual populations (Spruell et al. 1999; Healey and Prince 1995; Hard 1995; Rieman and McIntyre 1993).
Current information on the distribution of genetic diversity within and among bull trout populations is based on molecular characteristics of individual genes. While such analyses are extremely useful, they are not likely to detect variability in adaptive traits that are dependent on both the genotype (molecular genetic characteristics) and phenotype (observable expression, which may be influenced by genotype, the environment, and interactions of both) of an organism (Hard 1995). We may not be able to directly detect or measure the relations among genetic diversity, phenotypes, and adaptive traits of a population. Although the loss of a few populations may have little effect on overall genetic diversity, without conserving suites of populations and their habitats (i.e., core areas and, on a larger scale, recovery units), the loss of phenotypic diversity may be substantial, with negative consequences to the viability of the species (Healey and Prince 1995; Hard 1995; Rieman and McIntyre 1993; Nelson et al. 2002; MBTSG 1998; Taylor et al. 1999). Therefore, the maintenance of phenotypic variability and plasticity for adaptive traits (e.g., variability in body size and form, foraging efficiency, and timing of migrations, spawning, and maturation) is achieved by conserving populations, their habitats, and opportunities for the species to take advantage of habitat diversity (Healey and Prince 1995; Hard 1995).
Studies to understand the relations among genotypic, phenotypic, and environmental variability relative to bull trout have been conducted. For example, Spruell et al. (1999) found that bull trout at five different spawning sites within a tributary drainage of Lake Pend Oreille, Idaho, were differentiated based on genetic analyses (microsatellite DNA), indicating fidelity to spawning sites and relatively low rates of gene flow among sites. Genetic isolation of bull trout and environmental variability of tributary streams in the Lake Pend Oreille system implies that bull trout may be uniquely adapted within and among spawning tributaries in the system. Because bull trout in the coterminous United States are distributed over a wide geographic area consisting of various environmental conditions, and because they exhibit considerable genetic differentiation among populations, the occurrence of local adaptation is expected to be extensive. Some readily observable examples of differentiation between populations include external morphology and behavior (e.g., size and coloration of individuals; timing of spawning and migratory forays). Thus, conserving many populations across the range of the species is crucial to adequately protect genetic and phenotypic diversity of bull trout (Hard 1995; Healey and Prince 1995; Taylor et al.1999; Rieman and McIntyre 1993; Spruell et al. 1999; Leary et al. 1993; Rieman and Allendorf 2001). Changes in habitats and prevailing environmental conditions are increasingly likely to result in extinction of bull trout if genetic and phenotypic diversity is lost.
Scientific evidence also supports the position that maintaining multiple bull trout populations distributed and interconnected throughout their current range will provide a mechanism for reducing the risk of extinction from stochastic events (Rieman and McIntyre 1993; Rieman and Allendorf 2001; Spruell et al. 1999; Healey and Prince 1995; Hard 1995). Bull trout have a broad distribution and are relatively secure in some parts of their range. However, declines and local extinctions have occurred. Current patterns in the distribution and other empirical evidence, when interpreted in view of emerging conservation theory, indicate that further declines and local extinctions are likely (Rieman et al. 1997; Spruell et al. 2002; Rieman and Allendorf 2001; Dunham and Rieman 1999).
The range of the bull trout has decreased in comparison to the known and estimated historic range in the conterminous United States. Bull trout are now extinct in northern California. Elsewhere, populations have been much reduced, fragmented, or eliminated from the main stems of many large river systems.
Historical records for the Klamath River basin suggest that bull trout in this distinct population segment were once widely distributed and exhibited diverse lifehistory traits in that part of their range (Ziller 1992). Currently, however, bull trout in this basin are almost entirely nonmigratory, resident fish that are confined to headwater streams (Goetz 1989). There currently are nine naturally occurring, nonmigratory populations, and one remnant fluvial population, that still occur in the Upper Klamath Lake, Sprague River, and Sycan Marsh watersheds in Oregon. They represent an estimated 21 percent of the estimated historic range of bull trout in the Klamath River basin (Quigley and Arbelbide 1997). These known remaining local populations are considered to be quite low in abundance; they are highly isolated from one another as a result of natural and humancaused conditions and are at substantial risk of extirpation due to natural disturbance cycles, random events, and other risk factors (Light et al. 1996).
The Columbia River population segment includes bull trout residing in
portions of Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Montana. Bull trout are estimated to have once occupied about 60 percent of the Columbia River basin; they presently are known or predicted to occur in less than half (approximately 45 percent) of watersheds in the historical range (Quigley and Arbelbide 1997), which amounts to approximately 27 percent of the basin. The principal river systems and lakes/reservoirs in the Columbia River basin where bull trout currently are known to occur are as follows: The Willamette River system (in upper tributaries only), Lewis River, Klickitat River, Hood River, Deschutes River, Metolius River, Lake Billy Chinook, Odell Lake, John Day River, Sycan River, Sprague River, Umatilla River, Walla Walla River, Yakima River, Columbia River, Snake River, Tucannon River, Grande Ronde River, Clearwater River, Asotin Creek, Imnaha River, Salmon River, Little Lost River, Malheur River, Powder River, Payette River, Boise River, Weiser River, Wenatchee River, Entiat River, Methow River, Rimrock Lake, Spokane River, Pend Oreille River, Flathead River, Swan River, Clark Fork River, Kootenai River, Bitterroot River, Blackfoot River, Hungry Horse Reservoir, Swan Lake, and Flathead Lake (Bull Trout Draft Recovery Plan (Draft Recovery Plan), USFWS 2002).
Although still relatively widely distributed in the Columbia River basin, bull trout occur in low numbers in many areas, and populations are considered depressed or declining across much of their range (Ratliff and Howell 1992; Schill 1992; Thomas 1992; Buchanan et al. 1997; Rieman et al. 1997, Quigley and Arbelbide 1997). Another evaluation of the distribution and status of bull trout within the Columbia River and Klamath River basins indicates bull trout are present in about 36 percent of the subwatersheds in their potential range and are estimated to have strong populations in only 6 to 12 percent of the potential range, with most populations considered to be depressed in numbers (Rieman et al.1997).
The range of the bull trout is likely to have contracted and expanded over time in relation to natural climate changes; the distribution of the species probably was likely patchy even in pristine environments. However, regardless of uncertainty about the exact historical range, the number and size of historical populations, and the role of natural factors in the status of the species, there is widespread agreement in scientific literature that many factors related to human activities have impacted bull trout and continue to pose significant risks of further extirpations of local populations. Among the many factors that contributed to the decline of bull trout in the Columbia River and Klamath River basins, those which appear to be particularly significant are as follows: (1) Fragmentation and isolation of local populations due to the proliferation of dams and water diversions that have eliminated habitat, altered water flow and temperature regimes, and impeded migratory movements (Rieman and McIntyre 1993; Dunham and Rieman 1999); (2) degradation of spawning and rearing habitat in upper watershed areas, particularly alterations in sedimentation rates and water temperature, resulting from past forest and rangeland management practices and intensive development of roads (Fraley and Shepard 1989; Montana Bull Trout Scientific Group (MBTSG) 1998); and (3) the introduction and spread of nonnative species, particularly brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) and lake trout (Salvelinus namaycush), which compete with bull trout for limited resources and, in the case of brook trout, hybridize with bull trout (Ratliff and Howell 1992; Leary et al. 1993).
The ramifications and effects of isolation and habitat fragmentation on various aspects of the life cycle of bull trout are highlighted in much of the scientific literature on this species. Isolation of populations and habitat fragmentation resulting from barriers to migration have negatively impacted affected bull trout in several ways that have important implications for the conservation of the species. These include: (1) Reducing geographical distribution (Rieman and McIntyre 1993, MBTSG 1998); (2) increasing the probability of losing individual local populations (Rieman and McIntyre 1993, Rieman et al. 1995, MBTSG 1998, Dunham and Rieman 1999, Nelson et al. 2002); (3) increasing the probability of hybridization with introduced brook trout (Rieman and McIntyre 1993); (4) reducing the potential for movements that are necessary to meet developmental, foraging, and seasonal habitat requirements (Rieman and McIntyre 1993, MBTSG 1998); and (5) reducing reproductive capability by eliminating the larger, more fecund migratory form of bull trout from many subpopulations (Rieman and McIntyre 1993, MBTSG 1998).
Introduced brook trout threaten bull trout through competition, hybridization, and possibly predation (Leary et al. 1993). Brook trout appear to be better adapted to degraded habitat than bull trout, and brook trout are more tolerant of high water temperatures. Hybridization between brook trout and bull trout has been reported in Montana, Oregon, Washington, and Idaho. In addition, brook trout mature at an earlier age and have a higher reproductive rate than bull trout. This difference appears to favor brook trout over bull trout when they occur together, often leading to the decline or extirpation of bull trout (Leary et al. 1993; MBTSG 1998). Nonnative lake trout also negatively affect bull trout. A study of 34 lakes in Montana, Alberta, and British Columbia found that lake trout reduce the distribution and abundance of migratory bull trout in mountain lakes and concluded that lacustrine populations of bull trout usually cannot be maintained if lake trout are introduced (Donald and Alger 1993).
Previous Federal Action
On September 18, 1985, we published an animal Notice of Review in the Federal Register (50 FR 37958) designating the bull trout as a category 2 candidate for listing in the coterminous United States. Under the definitions we used at that time, category 2 taxa were those for which we had information indicating that proposing to list was possibly appropriate, but for which persuasive data on biological vulnerability and threat were not currently available to support a proposed rule. We published updated Notices of Review on January 6, 1989 (54 FR 554), and November 21, 1991 (56 FR 58804), reconfirming the bull trout category 2 status. On November 15, 1994 (59 FR 58982), we elevated bull trout in the coterminous United States to a category 1 candidate for Federal listing. Category 1 taxa were those for which we had on file substantial information on biological vulnerability and threats to support preparation of listing proposals.
On June 13, 1997, we published in the Federal Register (62 FR 32268) a proposed rule to list the Klamath River population segment of bull trout as an endangered species, and the Columbia River population segment of bull trout as a threatened species. On June 10, 1998, we published a final rule in the Federal Register (63 FR 31647) determining the Klamath River and Columbia River population segments of bull trout to have threatened status under the Act. At the time of listing, we made the finding that critical habitat was not determinable for these populations because their habitat needs were not sufficiently well known (63 FR 31647). (For a further summary of previous Federal action, see 64 FR 58916.)
On January 26, 2001, the Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Inc. and Friends of the Wild Swan, Inc. filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court of Oregon challenging our failure to designate critical habitat for bull trout. We entered into a settlement agreement on January 14, 2002, which stipulated that we would make critical habitat determinations for the five population segments of bull trout (Civil Case No: CV 01127JO). For the Klamath River and Columbia River populations, we agreed to submit for publication in the Federal Register a proposed rule for critical habitat designation by October 1, 2002, and a final rule by October 1, 2003. A subsequent agreement resulted in extending the date for the publication of the proposed rule to November 12, 2002.
Critical habitat is defined in section 3 of the Act as: (i) The specific areas within the geographical area occupied by a species, at the time it is listed in accordance with the Act, on which are found those physical or biological features (I) essential to the conservation of the species, and (II) which may require special management considerations or protection; and (ii) specific areas outside the geographic area occupied by a species at the time it is listed, upon a determination that such areas are essential for the conservation of the species. ``Conservation'' is defined by the Act as the use of all methods and procedures which are necessary to bring any endangered or a threatened species to the point at which the measures provided pursuant to the Act are no longer necessary.
Critical habitat receives protection under section 7(a)(2) of the Act through the requirement that Federal agencies shall, in consultation with us, ensure that any action they authorize, fund, or carry out is not likely to result in the destruction or adverse modification of critical habitat. Section 7(a)(4) requires Federal agencies to confer with us on any agency action which is likely to result in the destruction or adverse modification of proposed critical habitat. The term ``destruction or adverse modification'' is defined at 50 CFR 402.02 as a direct or indirect alteration that appreciably diminishes the value of critical habitat for both the survival and recovery of a listed species. Such alterations include, but are not limited to, alterations adversely modifying any of those physical or biological features that were the basis for determining the habitat to be critical.
Aside from the added protection that may be provided under section 7, the Act does not provide other forms of protection to lands designated as critical habitat. Because the consultation requirements under section 7 of the Act do not apply to activities on private or other nonFederal lands unless those activities involve a Federal nexus, critical habitat designation on such lands would not afford any additional protections under the Act.
Critical habitat also provides nonregulatory benefits to the
species by informing the public and private sectors of areas that are
important for species recovery, and where conservation actions would be
most effective. Designation of critical habitat can help focus
conservation activities for a listed species by identifying areas that
contain the physical and biological features essential for the
conservation of that species, and can alert the public as well as land
managing agencies to the importance of those areas. Critical habitat also identifies areas that may require special management
considerations or protection, and may help provide protection to areas where significant threats to the species have been identified, by helping people to avoid causing accidental damage to such areas.
In order to be included in a critical habitat designation, the habitat must be ``essential to the conservation of the species.'' Critical habitat designations identify, to the extent known, and using the best scientific data available, habitat areas that provide at least one of the physical or biological features essential to the conservation of the species (primary consituent elements, as defined at 50 CFR 424.12(b)). Section 3(5)(C) of the Act specifies that except in those circumstances determined by the Secretary of the Interior (Secretary), critical habitat shall not include the entire geographical areas which can be occupied by the listed species. Regulations at 50 CFR 424.12(e) also state that, ``The Secretary shall designate as critical habitat areas outside the geographical area presently occupied by the species only when a designation limited to its present range would be inadequate to ensure the conservation of the species.''
Section 4(b)(2) of the Act requires that we take into consideration the economic impact, and any other relevant impact, of specifying any particular area as critical habitat. We may exclude areas from critical habitat designation if we determine that the benefits of such exclusion outweigh the benefits of including the areas within critical habitat, unless we determine, based on the best scientific and commercial data available, that the failure to designate such area as critical habitat will result in the extinction of the species.
Section 4 of the Act requires that we designate critical habitat based on what we know at the time of designation. We recognize that habitat is often dynamic, undergoing naturallyoccurring changes that can alter its importance to, and use by, a listed species. Furthermore, we recognize that designation of critical habitat may not include all of the habitat areas that may eventually be determined to be necessary for the recovery of the species. For these reasons, critical habitat designations do not signal that habitat outside the designation is unimportant or may not be required for recovery. Areas that support newly discovered populations in the future, but are outside the critical habitat designation, will continue to be subject to conservation actions implemented under section 7(a)(1) of the Act, to the regulatory protections afforded by the section 7(a)(2) jeopardy standard, and to the section 9 prohibitions, as determined on the basis of the best available information at the time of the action. Federally funded or assisted projects affecting listed species outside their designated critical habitat areas may still result in jeopardy findings in some cases. Similarly, critical habitat designations made on the basis of the best available information at the time of designation will not control the direction and substance of future recovery plans, habitat conservation plans, or other species conservation planning efforts if new information available to these planning efforts calls for a different outcome.
Section 4(a)(3) of the Act requires that, to the maximum extent prudent and determinable, we designate critical habitat concurrently with listing a species. In our final listing rule (63 FR 31647), we concluded that the designation of critical habitat for the bull trout was not determinable at that time, explaining that the biological needs of bull trout in the Klamath River and Columbia River population segments were not sufficiently well known to permit identification of areas as critical habitat. Further, the extent of habitat required and specific management measures needed for recovery of these fish had not been identified.
Shortly after the species was listed in 1998, we initiated
development of a recovery plan for bull trout and convened 27
individual Recovery Unit Teams throughout five States to begin
gathering information on the status and conservation needs of the species. These
teams were composed of experts from the fields of biology, other scientific disciplines such as hydrology and forestry, resource users, and other stakeholders with interest in and knowledge of bull trout and the habitats they depend on for survival. The recovery planning process in general, and the individual Recovery Unit Teams in particular, generated a considerable body of new information on the biological needs of bull trout, the extent of habitat required, and specific management needs. There also have been new scientific publications, and additional information has become available from various State and Federal agencies since the 1998 listing action. As a result, we now find that sufficient information exists to determine critical habitat for the Klamath River and Columbia River bull trout population segments.
Our Policy on Information Standards Under the Endangered Species Act, published on July 1, 1994 (59 FR 34271), provides criteria, establishes procedures, and provides guidance to ensure that the decisions made by the Service represent the best scientific and commercial data available. It requires that our biologists, to the extent consistent with the Act and with the use of the best scientific and commercial data available, use primary and original sources of information as the basis for recommendations to designate critical habitat. When determining which areas are critical habitat, a primary source of information should be the listing rule for the species. Additional information may be obtained from a recovery plan, articles in peerreviewed journals, conservation plans developed by States and counties, scientific status surveys and studies, biological assessments, unpublished materials, and expert opinions.
As required by the Act and regulations at 50 CFR 424.12, we used the best scientific data available to determine critical habitat, giving consideration to those physical and biological features that are essential to the conservation of the bull trout. As described at 50 CFR 424.12(b), such requirements include, but are not limited to, the following: (1) Space for individual and population growth and for normal behavior; (2) Food, water, or other nutritional or physiological requirements; (3) Cover or shelter; (4) Sites for breeding, reproduction, rearing of offspring; and generally; (5) Habitats that are protected from disturbance or are representative of the historic geographical and ecological distributions of a species.
In proposing critical habitat, we reviewed the overall approaches to the conservation of the species undertaken by local, State, and Federal agencies; Tribal governments; and private individuals and organizations since the species was listed in 1998. We relied heavily on information developed by the bull trout Recovery Unit Teams, which were comprised of Federal, State, Tribal, and private biologists, as well as experts from other scientific disciplines such as hydrology and forestry, resource users, and other stakeholders with an interest in bull trout and the habitats they depend on for survival. We reviewed available information concerning bull trout habitat use and preferences, habitat conditions, threats, limiting factors, population demographics, and the known locations, distribution and abundances of bull trout.
During our evaluation of information, we also took into account the relatively low probability of detection of bull trout in traditional fish sampling and survey efforts, as well as the limited extent of such efforts across the range of bull trout. Because of their varied life history strategies, nocturnal habits, and low population densities in many areas, the detectability of bull trout in a given area is highly variable (Rieman and McIntyre 1993). Furthermore, much of the current information on bull trout presence is the product of informal surveys or sampling conducted for other species or other purposes. The primary limitations of informal surveys are that they provide no estimate of certainty (i.e., a measure of the probability of detection), and that they may be inadequate for determining parameters such as the densities and distribution of the population. (The need for a statistically sound bull trout survey protocol has been addressed only recently through the development, by the American Fisheries Society, of a peerreviewed protocol for determining presence/absence, and potential habitat suitability for juvenile and resident bull trout (Peterson et al. 2002).) Consequently, with some exceptions (e.g., areas of Montana where bull trout surveys have been consistently conducted for a decade or more), a lack of bull trout detections does not provide definitive evidence of their absence in a particular stream, lake, or river. Accordingly, we used information gathered during the bull trout recovery planning process, as supplemented by even more recent information developed by State agencies, Tribes, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), and other entities, in the development of our critical habitat designation proposal. Data concerning habitat conditions or status of primary constituent elements were used when available. To address areas where data gaps exist, we solicited expert opinions from knowledgeable fisheries biologists in the local area.
Important considerations in selecting areas for critical habitat designation include factors specific to each river system, such as size (e.g., stream order), gradient, channel morphology, connectivity to other aquatic habitats, and habitat complexity and diversity, as well as rangewide recovery considerations. This effort was especially assisted by the recovery strategy described in the Draft Recovery Plan (USFWS 2002). We took into account that preferred habitat for bull trout ranges from small headwater streams that are used largely for spawning and rearing, to downstream, mainstem portions of river networks that are used for rearing, foraging, overwintering, and migration.
Our method included consideration of information regarding habitat essential to maintaining the migratory life history forms of bull trout, in light of the repeated emphasis about the importance of such habitat in the scientific literature (Rieman and McIntryre 1993; Hard 1995; Healey and Prince 1995; Rieman et al. 1995; MBTSG 1998; Dunham and Rieman 1999; Nelson et al. 2002). As explained above (see the Background section), habitat for movement upstream and downstream is important for all life history forms for spawning, foraging, growth, access to rearing and overwintering areas, or thermal refugia (e.g., springfed streams in late summer), avoidance of extreme environmental conditions, and other normal behavior. Successful migration requires biologically, physically, and chemically unobstructed routes for movement of individuals. Therefore, our method included considering information regarding habitat that is essential for movement into and out of larger rivers, because of the importance of such areas to the fluvial form of bull trout. We similarly identified habitat that is essential for movement between streams and lakes by adfluvial forms.
Migratory corridors also are important for movement between
populations (e.g. Fraley and Sehapard 1989; Rieman and McIntyre 1993,
Rieman et al. 1995, Dunham and Rieman 1999). Thus, in addition to
considering areas important for migration within populations, our
method also included considering information regarding migration
corridors necessary to allow for genetic exchange between local populations. Corridors that provide for such
movements can support eventual recolonization of unoccupied areas or otherwise play a significant role in maintaining genetic diversity and metapopulation viability. (See Background section, above, for details.) Because these factors are important in identifying areas that are essential to the conservation of bull trout, our method included consideration of the various roles that migratory corridors have for bull trout.
Primary Constituent Elements
In accordance with section 3(5)(A)(i) of the Act and regulations at 50 CFR 424.12, in determining which areas to propose as critical habitat, we are required to base our proposal on the best scientific data available, and to consider those physical and biological features that are essential to the conservation of the species and that may require special management considerations or protection. These physical and biological features include, but are not limited to: space for individual and population growth, and for normal behavior; food, water, or other nutritional or physiological requirements; cover or shelter; sites for breeding, reproduction, or rearing of offspring; and habitats that are protected from disturbance or are representative of the historic geographical and ecological distributions of a species. All areas proposed as critical habitat for bull trout are within the historic geographic range of the species and contain one or more of these physical or biological features essential to the conservation of the species. The regulations also require that we include a list of known primary constituent elements with the critical habitat description. As described in the regulations, the primary constituent elements may include, but are not limited to, features such as spawning sites, feeding sites, and water quality or quantity. Following is a brief summary of information we considered in our identification of primary constituent elements. Additional and more detailed information is available in the administrative record for the proposed rule.
We determined the primary constituent elements for bull trout from
studies of their habitat requirements, lifehistory characteristics,
and population biology, as outlined above. These primary constituent elements are:
(1) Permanent water having low levels of contaminants such that normal reproduction, growth and survival are not inhibited; (2) Water temperatures ranging from 2 to 15 [deg]C (36 to 59 [deg]F), with adequate thermal refugia available for temperatures at the upper end of this range. Specific temperatures within this range will vary depending on bull trout life history stage and form, geography, elevation, diurnal and seasonal variation, shade, such as that provided by riparian habitat, and local groundwater influence; (3) Complex stream channels with features such as woody debris, side channels, pools, and undercut banks to provide a variety of depths, velocities, and instream structures;
(4) Substrates of sufficient amount, size, and composition to ensure success of egg and embryo overwinter survival, fry emergence, and youngoftheyear and juvenile survival. A minimal amount of fine substrate less than 0.63 cm (0.25 in) in diameter and minimal substrate embeddedness are characteristic of these conditions;
(5) A natural hydrograph, including peak, high, low, and base flows within historic ranges or, if regulated, a hydrograph that demonstrates the ability to support bull trout populations;
(6) Springs, seeps, groundwater sources, and subsurface water connectivity to contribute to water quality and quantity;
(7) Migratory corridors with minimal physical, biological, or chemical barriers between spawning, rearing, overwintering, and foraging habitats, including intermittent or seasonal barriers induced by high water temperatures or low flows;
(8) An abundant food base including terrestrial organisms of riparian origin, aquatic macroinvertebrates, and forage fish; and (9) Few or no predatory, interbreeding, or competitive nonnative species present.
The areas proposed as critical habitat for the Klamath River and Columbia River Basin DPSs of bull trout are designed to incorporate what is essential for their conservation. An area need not include all nine of the primary constitutent elements to qualify for designation as critical habitat.
Criteria Used To Identify Critical Habitat
The Draft Recovery Plan (USFWS 2002) identifies the specific recovery needs of the species and provides guidance for identifying areas that warrant critical habitat designation. As described below, this Draft Recovery Plan was used as the principal basis for identifying the critical habitat in this proposed designation. Use of the Draft Recovery Plan for this purpose raises significant issues about the scope and impact of this proposed designation. In particular, areas included in this proposal may not meet the statutory definition of critical habitat insofar as they may not be essential to the conservation of bull trout. We will reevaluate the proposed rule based on public comment, peer review of the proposed rule and the Draft Recovery Plan, the economic analysis of the proposed rule and the public comments on that analysis, and other available information, to ensure that the designation accurately reflects habitat that is essential to the conservation of the species.
The draft recovery strategy focuses primarily on the maintenance (and, where needed, expansion) of existing local populations by: (1) Protecting sufficient amounts of spawning and rearing habitat in upper watershed areas; (2) providing suitable habitat conditions in downstream rivers and lakes to provide foraging and overwintering habitat for fluvial and adfluvial fish; and (3) sustaining (and in some cases reestablishing) movement corridors to maintain migratory routes and the potential for gene flow between local populations by maintaining habitat conditions that allow for fish passage.
Critical habitat units are patterned after recovery units identified in the Draft Recovery Plan (USFWS 2002) for the Klamath River and Columbia River population segments. Using the guidance from that plan, we identified habitat areas needed for the survival and recovery of bull trout. To be included as critical habitat, an area had to provide one or more of the following three functions: (1) Spawning, rearing, foraging, or overwintering habitat to support existing bull trout local populations; (2) movement corridors necessary for maintaining migratory lifehistory forms; and/or (3) suitable and historically occupied habitat that is essential for recovering existing local populations that have declined, or that is needed to reestablish local populations required for recovery.
Our proposal includes approximately 4,074 km (2,531 mi) of stream
reaches and 12,176 ha (30,075 ac) of lake and reservoir surface area
habitat determined to be essential to the conservation of the bull
trout, but currently not known to be occupied. Although these specific
areas are not known to be occupied, they are within the geographical
area occupied by bull trout occupy. Areas with low levels of bull trout
occupancy or where presence of the species is undetermined were
included when they provided connectivity between areas of highquality
habitat, served as important migration corridors for fluvial or adfluvial fish, or were identified in the
Draft Recovery Plan (USFWS 2002) as necessary for local population expansion or reestablishment in order to achieve recovery, so that delisting can occur. Restoration of reproducing bull trout populations to additional portions of their historical range would significantly reduce the likelihood of extinction due to natural or humancaused factors that might otherwise further reduce population size and distribution. Thus, an integral component of the Draft Recovery Plan (USFWS 2002) is the selective reestablishment of secure, self sustaining populations in certain areas where the species has apparently, but not necessarily conclusively, been extirpated. In this regard, we also note that some habitat areas that would not be considered essential if they were geographically isolated are, in fact, essential to the conservation of the species when situated in locations where they facilitate movement between local populations or otherwise play a significant role in maintaining metapopulation viability (e.g., by providing sources of immigrants to recolonize adjacent habitat patches following periodic extirpation events) (Dunham and Rieman 1999). In addition, populations on the periphery of the species' range, or in atypical environments, are important for maintaining the genetic diversity of the species and could prove essential to the ability of the species to adapt to rapidly changing climatic and environmental conditions (Leary et al. 1993; Hard 1995).
A brief discussion of each area proposed for designation is provided in the critical habitat unit descriptions (below). Additional detailed documentation concerning the essential nature of these areas is contained in our administrative record.
Proposed critical habitat for bull trout was delineated using multiple sources including: The StreamNet GIS (Geographic Information System) database for Idaho, Oregon, Washington, and Montana; and State databases of bull trout distribution.
As part of our process of developing this critical habitat proposal, we evaluated existing management plans to determine whether they provide sufficient protection and management for the bull trout and its habitat such that there is no need for additional special management considerations or protection of areas that otherwise would qualify as critical habitat. Section 3(5)(A)(i) of the Act defines critical habitat as areas on which are found those physical or biological features (I) essential to the conservation of the species and (II) which may require special management considerations or protection. Adequate special management or protection is provided by a legally operative plan that addresses the maintenance and improvement of essential habitat elements and that provides for the longterm conservation of the species. We consider a plan adequate when it: (1) Provides a conservation benefit to the species (i.e., the plan must maintain or provide for an increase in the species' population, or the enhancement or restoration of its habitat within the area covered by the plan); (2) provides assurances that the management plan will be implemented (i.e., those responsible for implementing the plan are capable of accomplishing the objectives, have an implementation schedule, and/or adequate funding for the management plan); and (3) provides assurances the conservation plan will be effective (i.e., it identifies biological goals, has provisions for reporting progress, and is of a duration sufficient to implement the plan and achieve the plan's goals and objectives). If an area provides physical and biological features essential to the conservation of the species, and also is covered by a plan that meets these criteria, then such an area does not constitute critical habitat as defined by the Act because the primary constituent elements found there are not in need of special management.
Federal Public Lands (USFS and Bureau of Land Management)
Within the range of bull trout, the USFS and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) prepare land management plans which generally guide activities on the National Forests and BLM Districts. These plans provide some level of conservation benefit to species and the habitat they are known to occupy. However, current management goals are not sufficient to address areas of unknown occupancy which are proposed as critical habitat because we believe they are essential to conservation of the species.
Federal land management agencies routinely engage in land exchanges with nonFederal entities. These exchanges are often advantageous to both parties by providing, for example, harvestable timber for a private timber company and a consolidation of land holdings that will contribute to efficient future management by the Federal agency. Such exchanges complicate potential critical habitat exclusions based on existing management plans.
USFS Land and Resource Management Plans (LRMPs) and BLM Resource Management Plans (RMPs), as amended by the Interim Strategy for Managing FishProducing Watersheds in Eastern Oregon and Washington, Idaho, Western Montana, and Portions of Nevada (INFISH), and the Interim Strategy for Managing Anadromous FishProducing Watersheds in Western Oregon and Washington, Idaho, and Portions of California (PACFISH), are fluid documents that may change, or not change as anticipated, as management emphasis and direction changes. For example: (1) PACFISH and INFISH were considered interim for a period of 2 years when they were created in 1998, yet they still are in place in 2002; (2) three National Forests in Idaho are currently engaged in informal consultation with the Service on revisions to their LRMPs with the vision of dropping or modifying PACFISH/INFISH requirements. We are unsure at this point as to the degree of aquatic protections that will be provided under the new plans; and (3) the Aquatic Conservation Strategy and other components of the Northwest Forest Plan (NWFP) contain aspects which are not always fully agreed upon by Federal agencies charged with implementation of the plan. For this reason, as well as to incorporate new information, the NWFP is managed adaptively to respond to new information and, as such, we are unsure as to the specific details of future management direction. Further, LRMPs and RMPs (including the NWFP) are general and programmatic in nature. All of the Federal agencies understand that more specific consultation at the sitespecific level is required to determine project effects and meet the requirements of section 7(a)(2) of the Act. Therefore, the current existence and substance of these Federal land management plans do not provide assurances of their future implementation, or that specific project implementation in the future will reflect a comparable level of conservation benefits to bull trout.
Because of these circumstances, we cannot, at this time, find that
management on these lands under Federal jurisdiction is adequate to
preclude a proposed designation of critical habitat. Therefore, we have
included areas within these Federal jurisdictions as part of the
critical habitat proposal, and are seeking further information, through
the public comment process, as to whether these areas should be
retained or excluded from designation in the final rule (see Public Comments Solicited section).
Congressionally Designated Wilderness
Wilderness areas exist because of a Congressional mandate that began with passage of the Wilderness Act in 1964. In partnership with the public, wilderness managers have a responsibility to preserve an enduring resource of wilderness, where natural processes are allowed to operate freely. Noncommercial hunting, fishing, and trapping are allowed in most Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service, and Forest Service wilderness areas, but not those managed by the National Park Service. States are responsible for management of wildlife and fish, working together with the Federal agency land managers. Wildlife species may be introduced and fish species stocked in order to perpetuate or recover a threatened or endangered species, or to restore a native species that has been eliminated or reduced by human influence. Exotic species may not be stocked. Habitat may be manipulated only when it is necessary to correct conditions resulting from human influence or to protect threatened or endangered species. Research and management surveys are permitted if do
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT
John Young, at the above address, (telephone 503/2316131; facsimile 503/2316243).