11/28/2000 -- -- Contact:
Bruce Farling, Executive Director, Montana Council, Trout Unlimited: (406) 543-0054
Steve Moyer, Vice President for Conservation Programs, Trout Unlimited: (703) 284-9406
November 28, 2000, Missoula, Mont….Trout Unlimited says that Secretary of Interior Bruce Babbitt's approval of a plan that allows Plum Creek Timber Company to harm threatened fish habitat in exchange for promises to conserve the fish is well intentioned but misguided.
Babbitt will be in Missoula, Mont., November 29, to sign an agreement for a habitat conservation plan (HCP) and "incidental take permit" that gives Plum Creek a 25-year federal permit to degrade the habitat of 17 native fish, including endangered salmon, steelhead and bull trout, in exchange for the company's implementation of certain commitments aimed at reducing harm to the species. The plan covers 1.5 million acres of Plum Creek lands in Montana, and another 100,000 acres in Idaho and Washington, comprising a huge portion of the range for native Westslope cutthroat and Endangered Species Act-listed (ESA) bull trout. HCPs and incidental take permits are authorized under the federal ESA.
"Though we agree with Secretary Babbitt that habitat plans and take permits hold promise for protecting dwindling species on private land while also reducing financial burdens to landowners, we vigorously disagree with him that Plum Creek's plan delivers much conservation for fish," said Bruce Farling, Executive Director of Trout Unlimited's Montana Council.
"This plan essentially protects Plum Creeks' status quo operations, while adding a few bells and whistles and a ton of complicated process that in sum will not significantly reduce harm to fish," continued Farling. "In exchange, the company gets 25 years of legal insulation from lawsuits claiming it is harming endangered species."
Last spring Trout Unlimited enlisted professionals in fisheries and habitat planning to analyze Plum Creek's draft habitat plan. TU, which has never opposed the idea of Plum Creek obtaining a take permit, released an 80-page report that pointed out scientific and legal flaws in the plan, as well as detailed recommendations on how to make the plan work for fish and the company. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service, which must approve the plan, adopted a few of TU's recommendations. However, much of the plan and permit remains unchanged.
"The precedent this plan establishes for large private landowners, as well as state forests, is simply too important to ignore," said Steve Moyer, TU's Vice President for Conservation Programs. "If Plum Creek's plan is to be a model for habitat planning for endangered trout and salmon, the fish are in trouble. We think Secretary Babbitt, as well intentioned as he is, ought to ask for improvements in the plan."
The plan Babbitt is approving is flawed because it:
Trout Unlimited is the nation's largest trout and salmon conservation group. Its mission is to conserve, protect and restore North American's trout and salmon and their watersheds. TU has 125,000 members nationwide organized in 500 local chapters. TU has 2,500 members in Montana.