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Big Win in Court for Bull Trout
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TAXPAYER ASSETS PROJECT - NATURAL RESOURCES POLICY ADVISORY
(please distribute freely)
November 20, 1996
Conservation Groups Win Big Victory Over Government In Bull Trout Suit
November 13, 1996
MISSOULA- Two Montana-based conservation groups announced today that
federal district court Judge Robert Jones has decided in their favor in
their suit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service challenging the
Service's 1994 "warranted but precluded" finding which denied bull trout
legal protection under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA). The
federal district court in Oregon found that migratory bull trout are
imperiled throughout their range, have been severely fragmented, and are
likely to be at extreme risk of extinction.
In his ruling, the Portland-based Judge wrote that " Several aspects of the
record make FWS's reliance on these factors, without further explanation,
so questionable and internally inconsistent as to render that reliance
arbitrary and capricious."
Furthermore, the judge wrote, "In its 1994 FINDING, FWS has not given this
court any explanation of why it denied all of plaintiffs' requests for
emergency listings of bull trout. For that reason alone, this court must
find that decision arbitrary and capricious." The court also found that
the 1995 FINDING is subject to the same deficiencies as the 1994 FINDING.
The Judge also wrote that, "...if FWS concludes that it should have ranked
the bull trout as facing a "high" magnitude of threat, listing of the bull
trout should proceed in accordance with the Act; as such, the 1995 FINDING
will be without legal effect because the Act never would have required it."
"It's a really positive ruling," said Jack Tuholske, the attorney who
represents Alliance for the Wild Rockies and Friends of the Wild Swan.
"It's the first step towards restoring the aquatic ecosystems of the
"The bull trout have been harmed by the delay. Since we filed our original
petition, several key bull trout populations are in collapse," said Mike
Bader, executive director of Alliance for the Wild Rockies. "The agency
must now follow the law and begin recovery efforts to save the bull trout
"We hope that this ruling sends a resounding message to the Fish and
Wildlife Service and the Clinton Administration: stop making excuses and
start making progress," said Steve Kelly of Friends of the Wild Swan. "They
have cheated the bull trout out of legal protection for four years; four
years the bull trout didn't have."
The groups originally filed a petition requesting the Service to formally
list the bull trout as endangered pursuant to the ESA in 1992. They filed
suit following the 1994 ruling that bull trout were warranted for listing,
but precluded by other listing priorities.
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