Yesterday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) posted a Notice of Availability of the Revised Draft Recovery Plan for the Coterminous United States Population of Bull Trout (pdf). The plan is intended to manage threats and ensure sufficient distribution and abundance of bull trout (Salvelinus confluentus) so that protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) is no longer required.

The bull trout was listed as threatened under the ESA in 1999. USFWS previously prepared three separate recovery plans for the species: (1) a 2002 draft plan to address populations within the Columbia, Saint Mary-Belly, and Klamath River basins; (2) a 2004 draft plan for the Coastal-Puget Sound drainages in western Washington; and (3) a 2004 draft plan for the Jarbridge River in Nevada. None of these plans were finalized. The revised draft plan incorporates and builds upon new information regarding bull trout life history and revises the recovery criteria proposed in the 2002 and 2004 draft plans to deemphasize achieving targeted point estimates of abundance of adult bull trout in each core area. Instead, the revised plan measures success by focusing on managing threats to the bull trout, such as non-native fish species, as well as encouraging habitat enhancement. The revised plan addresses core populations in six recovery units located in portions of Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Nevada and Montana.

USFWS’s proposal is reportedly concerning to conservation groups, including Trout Unlimited and Alliance for the Wild Rockies, which urge incorporation of measurable population objectives, such as overall population size and number of adults and juveniles and occupied miles of stream, in the revised recovery plan. These groups believe that these data are more accurate indicators of bull trout recovery than data on the existence of threats.

The public comment period relating to the plan closes on December 3, 2014.