NEWS ** 1 page ** May 12, 2005
For Immediate Release
Attention: Assignment/Environment/Outdoor Editor
Contact: Bill Schudlich, New Mexico Council Chair, 505-470-4878
Carl Lee, Arizona Council Chair, 602-995-0551
Kira Finkler, Legislative Counsel, 703-284-9408
TU on Gila Trout: Downlisting Not Warranted
Angler-conservationists feel that rare native trout still require existing federal protections: "Now is not the time for shortcuts"
ALBUQUERQUE - The nation's leading coldwater fisheries conservation group Trout Unlimited (TU) today voiced concerns in response to yesterday's proposal by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that the Gila trout be downlisted from endangered to threatened under the Endangered Species Act, thus moving them a step closer to being removed altogether from the endangered species list.
"We base our concerns on the Fish and Wildlife Service's failure to meet their own criteria for downlisting," said Bill Schudlich, Chair of the TU New Mexico Council. "Their rules call for the protection and replication of the four pure lineages of Gila trout, but then they admit that only three of the four lineages have been replicated."
"Given the fact that they don't meet their own criteria, we can't understand why the Fish and Wildlife Service would propose such a step at this time," said Carl Lee, Chair of the TU Arizona Council.
"It's possible that the Fish and Wildlife Service is anticipating future progress in establishing new Gila trout populations," said Kira Finkler, TU Legislative Counsel. "But now is not the time for shortcuts. Too many people have worked too hard to restore this fish for their efforts to be undercut by a premature downlisting. We'll surely support such action when it is warranted, but it's simply not yet warranted."
"The Gila trout is a unique resource found nowhere else in the world, and we want to make sure it's future is secure," said Schudlich. "We can't cut corners in our haste to enjoy the benefits of this symbol of the Southwest."
Trout Unlimited is North America's leading coldwater fisheries conservation organization, with 140,000 members dedicated to the protection and restoration of trout and salmon fisheries and their watersheds.