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Eagle Lake Rainbow Trout Win!

Online Messenger #308

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Good news! Western Watersheds Project succeeded in compelling the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to make its required finding on whether to extend Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections to the Eagle Lake Rainbow Trout in northeastern California! After lingering on the agency’s “to do” list for decades, WWP’s 2014 litigation has finally bumped it up the list.

The Eagle Lake rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss aquilarum) is uniquely adapted to tolerate the high levels of alkalinity in Eagle Lake, the only place where it naturally occurs. The fish is long-lived, up to 11 years, which helps it withstand the years when its spawning grounds in Pine Creek are inaccessible due to dry conditions. But even in wet years, a hatchery weir blocks access to Pine Creek, water is diverted for livestock grazing, and other uses along the creek limit the species’ ability to successfully reproduce. Logging and competition with non-native species also threatens trout habitat. Endangered Species Act protection could help limit these threats and ensure the species survives.

Today’s settlement agreement affirms that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service failed to meet statutory deadlines in violation of its duty under the ESA. The agency agreed to weigh the evidence as to whether the species warrants listing and to issue its overdue finding by June 2016.

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