3/8/2001 -- --
Steve Trafton, TU California Policy Coordinator: 510-528-4772, cell. 510-418-1812
Alan Moore, TU Western Communications Coordinator: 503-827-5700
Conservation organization calls on Anheuser-Busch not to appeal federal decision
Albany, CA -- Despite the decision revealed recently in press reports of the U.S. Forest Service to prohibit Anheuser-Busch from grazing their cattle on publicly owned tracts where the endangered golden trout is located, Trout Unlimited said it will continue to pursue efforts to have the fish listed as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act.
The Forest Service recently announced that it would suspend the beer-maker's grazing permit in the Golden Trout Wilderness in the Sierra Nevada range where the golden trout is located. The federal agency ordered that no cattle be allowed into the area for at least 10 years.
"We applaud the Forest Service's decision to suspend grazing in this area for at least ten years. That action will remove one of the key threats to the survival of the California's state fish," said Steve Trafton, Trout Unlimited's California Policy Coordinator. "Further we implore Anheuser-Busch not to appeal this decision, but rather to dedicate its considerable resources toward repairing the habitat damage that this grazing has inflicted over the years. With that said, it is important for the public and policymakers to recognize that this action is just one of the steps that need to be taken to ensure the survival of California's state fish."
Trafton said the stocking of non-native trout, coupled with a piecemeal approach to protecting the fish have also had a major impact on the golden trout's prospect for survival. "Removing cattle from much of the golden trout habitat will help, but that alone will not save this beautiful and very rare fish," he said.
Last fall, Trout Unlimited petitioned the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to list the golden trout as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. By law, the USFWS is required to make a finding - within 90 days after receiving such a petition - as to whether the petition presented substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that the listing might be warranted.
However, the USFWS failed to make a 90-day finding as to whether the petition to list the California golden trout has merit, citing budgetary constraints. In February, Trout Unlimited notified the USFWS that if it does not act on the petition within 60 days, the organization plans to pursue legal action.
In addition to its ESA petition, the Trout Unlimited has played a long-term role in trying to save the golden trout through data collection, monitoring, and providing written and oral comments.
"Thanks to hybridization, we need to move very fast to secure the golden trout's status. Its best hope for long-term survival is a systematic approach to saving the fish that will include not only addressing the problem of grazing, but also the haphazard stocking of non-native fish. An Endangered Species Act petition sets that process into motion. That is why we will continue to pursue every possible action to assure the golden trout is listed as endangered," Trafton said.
Native to only two high-altitude watersheds in California's Sierra Nevada Mountains, the golden 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 Kern River and adjacent Golden Trout Creek, today is a small fraction of that historic range.
The U.S. Forest Service estimates that the golden trout is secure in only four percent of its native range. Trout Unlimited, the nation's leading coldwater conservation organization 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 8,000 members in California.