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Judge agrees cutthroat trout doesn’t need protection

Capital Press

Posted 10/21/2012

A federal judge has agreed with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that the Colorado river cutthroat trout doesn’t warrant protection as a threatened or endangered species.

The subspecies of trout, found in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming, now occupies only 14 percent of its historic range in the West due to grazing, dams, oil development and other factors, according to the agency and environmentalists.

Though the trout’s populations and range have been greatly diminished, the Fish and Wildlife Service determined that it’s not in danger of extinction or likely to become endangered.

The Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental group, challenged the finding in federal court, claiming the agency improperly evaluated the trout’s chances of survival.

U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman in Washington, D.C., has rejected those arguments, finding the agency did not wrongly focus on threats to the trout’s current range — rather than past reductions to its historic range.

Plaintiffs claimed the agency hadn’t cumulatively considered hazards facing the species, but the judge disagreed, saying the interaction of these factors is cited “in a somewhat haphazard fashion, but the analysis of how they combine together is nevertheless apparent.”

The Fish and Wildlife Service wasn’t required to evaluate the potential impact of climate change on the species, as the environmentalists argued, and the agency was reasonable in its analysis of the trout’s viability, the judge said.

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