California Policy Coordinator
1/17/2002 -- Albany, CA -- The national conservation organization Trout Unlimited has asked a federal judge to grant their motion for summary judgment in the case they brought against the U.S. government for failing to make an initial 90-day finding regarding TU's petition to list California’s state fish – the golden trout – as endangered.
Trout Unlimited wrote in their legal brief, filed today in U.S. District Court, that the language of the Endangered Species Act leaves no doubt that the Secretary of Interior must make an initial finding as to whether their petition to list the California golden trout as endangered has merit. Since she has failed to do so, the organization noted that the only remaining issue in the case is the deadline by which she must make the 90-day finding.
“California’s official state fish, the golden trout, is steadily declining throughout its native range and may soon join California’s state animal, the grizzly bear, on history’s list of species that no longer inhabit the Golden State,” the motion noted.
In the fall of 2000, Trout Unlimited petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list the California golden trout as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. By law, the federal agency is required to make a finding – within 90 days after receiving such a petition – as to whether substantial scientific or commercial information has been presented to indicate that the listing might be warranted.
However, the USFWS failed to make such a 90-day finding regarding the California golden trout petition, at the time claiming budgetary constraints. In February 2001, Trout Unlimited notified the USFWS that if it did not act on the petition, the organization planned to pursue legal action. On November 29, 2001, the organization filed suit against the agency for its refusal to act on the petition.
The California golden trout is native to only two high-altitude watersheds in the state’s Sierra Nevada Mountains. The trout has fallen victim to the careless stocking of non-native fish and more than a century of overgrazing by cattle and sheep. The species’ range, which once encompassed an estimated 450 miles of stream habitat in the upper South Fork of the Kern River and adjacent Golden Trout Creek, today is a small fraction of that historic range.
While the U.S. Forest Service had estimated that the California golden trout is now only secure in only 4 percent of its native habitat, recent genetic testing results have show that the hybridization threat to the species, from the stocking of nonnative trout by the State of California, is far worse than was thought as recently as a year ago.
“The facts supporting the need to list the California golden trout as endangered are infallible,” said Steve Trafton, Trout Unlimited's California Policy Coordinator. "A positive 90-day finding by the agency will allow the ESA process to proceed and ensure that federal protection is afforded the fish before it is too late.
Trout Unlimited filed the motion for summary judgment in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, San Francisco Division. Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund filed the motion on TU’s behalf.
Trout Unlimited, the nation's leading coldwater conservation organization, is dedicated to the protection and enhancement of trout and salmon rivers and streams and their watersheds. The organization has over 125,000 members in North America, including 10,000 members in California.