Protection Sought for Colorado River Cutthroat Trout Under the Endangered Species Act

For Immediate Release


Noah Greenwald, Center for Biological Diversity, (503) 484-7495

Protection Sought for Colorado River Cutthroat Trout Under the Endangered Species Act

Rare Trout Was Denied Protection Based on Flawed Bush Policy

DENVER - The Center for Biological Diversity filed suit today challenging a
June 13, 2007 decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service denying
the Colorado River cutthroat trout protection under the Endangered
Species Act. The decision relied on a flawed Bush-era policy that
allowed the agency to look only at current range when considering
whether the trout is endangered.

“The Colorado
River cutthroat trout has been lost from most of its range and needs
the protection of the Endangered Species Act,” said Noah Greenwald,
endangered species program director at the Center for Biological
Diversity. “The only reason the trout was denied protection was because
of a Bush policy that called for ignoring a species’ lost historic
range when determining whether a species is endangered.”   

The Bush policy relates to the definition of the term endangered
under the Endangered Species Act, which specifies that a species will
be considered endangered if it is “in danger of extinction in all or a
significant of portion of its range.” The phrase “significant portion
of its range” is important, because it means that species need not be
at risk of extinction globally to receive protection.

Bush-era policy, which was issued by the solicitor of the Department of
the Interior, specified that when determining whether a species is
endangered in a significant portion of its range, the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service should only consider current and not historic
range — effectively chopping protection off at the knees. The policy
and its impact on decisions to list species, including the trout, was
recently discussed in a peer-reviewed study in the international journal Conservation Biology.  

Colorado River cutthroat trout was denied protection even though the
Fish and Wildlife Service acknowledged that it has been lost from 87
percent of its historic range and continues to face threats from
habitat degradation, nonnative trout, and increasingly climate change,”
said Greenwald. “This is an absurd result that threatens the survival
of this unique and beautiful fish.”

The Center for
Biological Diversity has been actively working to overturn Bush-era
decisions limiting protection for endangered species, including suing
to overturn decisions affecting 54 species.
To date, this campaign has been highly successful, with the Obama
administration agreeing to reconsider 45 of the 54 decisions.

decision to deny the trout protection was typical of the Bush
administration’s efforts to limit protection for endangered species,”
said Greenwald. “We hope the Obama administration will revoke the
damaging Bush policy on ‘significant portion of range’ language, which
misinterpreted the law in order to hobble protection, and reconsider
listing the trout.”

One of the most spectacular of
the colorful cutthroat trout, the Colorado River cutthroat has a
crimson belly and distinct black spots covering the tail, sides, and
back. It was historically found in portions of Wyoming Colorado, Utah,
and extreme northern New Mexico and Arizona.

The Center is represented by attorneys Neil Levine and Jim Dougherty.


At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature - to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.

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