Center for Biological Diversity files lawsuit to gain protection for the Colorado River cutthroat

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From the Courthouse News Service (Sonya Angelica Diehn):

The Center for Biological Diversity challenges a Bush-era policy under which the government considers only the current range in consideration of endangered status, which the Center calls “effectively chopping protection off at the knees.” It claims the Interior Department and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also dismissed the threats of non-native trout; persistence of only small, isolated cutthroat populations; and the cutthroat’s particular susceptibility to a parasitic disease, to deny it protection.

The Colorado cutthroat trout needs clean, cool mountain streams to survive. But 87 percent of this habitat has been lost to livestock grazing, logging, water diversion and dams, among other factors, the Center says. Steady introduction of non-native trout allows the sport fish to compete with local species for resources, eats the native young and threatens local trout by interbreeding, weakening the native population’s highly adapted ability to survive, the plaintiffs say. The species used to flourish in parts of Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, and extreme northern New Mexico and Arizona. With 58 percent of the remaining range degraded, the cutthroat now survives only in small, fragmented populations. The species is particular susceptible to whirling disease, a transmittable parasite that causes nerve and bone damage and deformation, making infected fish swim in an erratic, corkscrew-like pattern…

[Plaintiff Noah Greenwald], who has a master’s degree in riparian ecology and submitted the petition to the Fish and Wildlife Service after studying the Colorado cutthroat trout for a year, added, “We hope the Obama administration will revoke the damaging Bush policy on ‘significant portion of range’ language, which misinterpreted the law in order to hobble protection, and reconsider listing the trout.” Lead counsel for the Center is James Dougherty of Washington, D.C.

More endangered species coverage here.

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