The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (“Service”) announced this week the final rule for the revised 2005 critical habitat designation for the bull trout, a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. The 2005 critical habitat designation had been struck down by a federal court last year after an inspector general’s report found improper political influence during the rulemaking process.

The final rule, which will become effective November 17, 2010, identifies 32 critical habitat units on 3,500 water body segments across five states.  Approximately 18,975 miles of streams and 488,252 acres of lakes and reservoirs in Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Montana, and Nevada are being designated as critical habitat for the species.  An additional 754 miles of marine shoreline are also being designated in Washington.  While critical habitat for bull trout applies only to waterways, the rule recognizes that associated flood plains, shorelines, riparian zones, and upland habitat are important to critical habitat areas and that activities in these areas may affect bull trout critical habitat as well.

When compared to the proposed rule issued by the Service in January, the designation shows a net reduction of approximately 12.5% of the streams, 8.5% of lakes, and 23.5% of marine shoreline habitat.  According to the Service, these changes reflect new biological information received during the comment period resulting in the addition of some habitats and the removal of others, and exclusion of specific areas under section 4(b)(2) of the Act based on ongoing conservation measures, activities, agreements, and other factors.  For more information the proposed rule, see our earlier post.

Bull trout are primarily threatened by habitat degredation and fragmentation, blockage of migratory corridors, poor water quality, the effects of climate change and past fisheries management practices.

The final rule will be published in the Federal Register on October 18, 2010.  For a YouTube video on the bull trout, click here.