CMC's Denver Fly Fishing Section
Colorado River Cutthroat Update
Colorado River cutthroats aren't at risk of extinction, federal wildlife officials say
By John Ingold - article published 6/13/07 in the Denver Post
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declined to give the Colorado River cutthroat trout federal protection Wednesday, ending an eight-year debate over one of only three trout species native to Colorado.
In its announcement, the Fish and Wildlife Service said a year-long review found a "significant increase" in the number of known populations of the trout species.
"There actually had to be an extinction risk factor for it to be listed," said Diane Katzenberger of the Fish and Wildlife Service. "This determination is that the Colorado River cutthroat trout is not at risk of going extinct."
An environmental group that sought protection for the Colorado River cutthroat under the Endangered Species Act quickly blasted the decision.
The group - the Center for Biological Diversity - said the reported increase in the number of populations is the result of looking harder for them and doesn't necessarily mean the number of Colorado River cutthroat is increasing.
"The fact that they found more doesn't mean the species is secure or that it isn't declining," said Noah Greenwald, a conservation biologist with the center.
After an initial review went against listing the species, the groups sued the Fish and Wildlife Service. A judge ruled in favor of the groups last year, leading to the most recent review and decision.
The Colorado River cutthroat trout is one of three trout species - along with the greenback cutthroat trout and the Rio Grande cutthroat trout - native to Colorado. It is found on the Western Slope as well as in Utah and Wyoming.
The greenback cutthroat is listed as threatened, while federal officials are reviewing a petition to protect the Rio Grande cutthroat under the Endangered Species Act.
In its recent review, the Fish and Wildlife Service found 285 Colorado River cutthroat populations in 42 watersheds in Colorado, Wyoming and Utah.
Greenwald said competition from introduced species - such as rainbow trout - as well as other factors have driven the Colorado River cutthroat from 85 percent of its historic range.
Populations are now in small headwaters streams, leaving them genetically isolated, he said.
Colorado Division of Wildlife spokesman Tyler Baskfield said Colorado is part of an effort with Utah and Wyoming to increase Colorado River cutthroat populations.
Baskfield said the federal decision affirms that effort, which the Wildlife Division considers a better alternative to Endangered Species Act protection.
"I think it confirms that we're on the right path," Baskfield said.
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