WWP Wins Federal Court Order Requiring FWS to Consider Review of Whether Big Lost River Whitefish Deserve Endangered Species Act Protection

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WWP Wins Federal Court Order Requiring FWS to Consider Review of Whether Big Lost River Whitefish Deserve Endangered Species Act Protection

Big Lost River White Fish
Big Lost River White Fish Photo © Idaho Department of Fish and Game

On March 31, 2009 Idaho Federal District Court Judge Edward Lodge granted Western Watersheds Project’s Motion for Summary Judgment and ordered the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to complete a full status review of the Big Lost River Whitefish. The Big Lost River is an isolated sinks watershed with no surface connection to any other river.

Judge Lodge’s Order overturns a Bush administration USFWS decision that concluded that the Big Lost River Whitefish did not warrant a status review or protection under the Endangered Species Act.

The Big Lost River whitefish is endemic only to the Big Lost River in central Idaho where it has been separated from other whitefish populations for more than 10,000 years.

Big Lost River Watershed
Big Lost River Watershed

In the last twenty years the numbers of this rare and beautiful native fish have plummeted to 2% of its historic population. The reasons for this decline is habitat degradation caused by dams and water diversions for animal agriculture as well as negative impacts by cattle on whitefish habitat in headwater streams of the Big Lost River watershed. A compounding risk to the Big Lost River Whitefish is whirling disease, an introduced and fatal fish disease.

Western Watersheds Project welcomes this Court Order that will allow the Obama Administration to carry out a full scientific review of this imperiled native fish over the next 12 months.

To review copies of Judge Edward Lodge’s Court Order and the 2006 Listing Petition Filed by WWP please visit the this legal page.

Western Watersheds Project is ably represented in this litigation by attorney Judi Brawer of Boise, Idaho. Thank you Judi !! WWP would also like to thank Dr. Mark Hill of Ecosystem Sciences ( http://www.ecosystemsciences.com/ ) who, with his staff, prepared WWP’s Listing Petition for the Big Lost River Whitefish in 2005-6.

Western Watersheds Project Is A West Regional Conservation Organization Working To Protect And Restore Western Watersheds And Wildlife