Saving the Bull Trout by dfsdf224s


									                               Saving the Bull Trout
                    by Craig J. Knowles and Robert G. Gumtow

                                      The Thoreau Institute
                                        14417 S.E. Laurie
                                     Oak Grove, Oregon 97267
                                           April, 1996

                                      Table of Contents
    •   Summary
    •   Introduction
    •   Understanding the Game--Bull Trout Life History
    •   Dealt a Losing Hand--Bull Trout Decline
             • Land Management Problems--Habitat Degradation
             • Water Management Problems:
             • Hydropower, Passage Barriers, and Irrigation
             • Fisheries Management Problems
    •   Catastrophic Events
             • Introduced Disease
             • Catastrophic Fire
             • Salvage Timber Sales
             • Drought
             • Climate Change
    •   Figuring the Odds--Bull Trout Extinction
    •   A Rigged Game--How'd we get here, Anyway?
             • Tax Policies
             • Irrigation and Agricultural Programs
             • Public Land Management
    •   Eliminating Dirty Dealing
             • Redefining the Yardstick
             • Dealing Straight
    •   Changing the Odds--Bull Trout Conservation Efforts
    •   The Bottom Line
    •   References
    •   Interviews

The bull trout is a native trout species to the Pacific Northwest. Life history strategies includes
both migratory and resident fishes. The bull trout is a very habitat specific fish and requires
clean, cold water for successful reproduction and survival. The bull trout has been identified
as a species in decline but still contains sufficient numbers and distribution that it is not at
high risk of extinction.
It is presently listed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a Category 1 candidate species
for listing under the Endangered Species Act. Its status has been twice reviewed by the
agency and though found each time to warrant listing, has been precluded from listing
because of other higher priority species.
A number of factors have led to the decline of the bull trout and these factors work in concert
with each other to varying degrees in each watershed to influence bull trout populations.
Factors contributing to the decline of bull trout are related to land management problems,
water management problems, and fisheries management problems.
Land management problems include logging, road construction, and grazing which results in
sedimentation, loss of woody debris, degraded riparian areas, and changed stream
characteristics. Water management problems are a result of dams representing passage
barriers and diversion of water for irrigation purposes. Fisheries management problems
consist of overharvest, poaching, and introduced salmonid species.
Existing bull trout populations are fragmented and frequently isolated in headwater areas.
Montana contains the majority of the extant bull trout populations and is also the recognized
leader in bull trout restoration. Steps taken by Montana to restore bull trout include
organization of a restoration team, a scientific advisory group, and a public watershed group
for each occupied watershed to provide comment on restoration plans. Emergency restoration
efforts implemented to date include closure of legal harvest of bull trout in most waters, public
education, increased law enforcement, and screening of irrigation diversions.
The U.S. Forest Service has recently developed an Inland Native Fish Strategies document to
provide additional habitat protection for the bull trout on national forest lands. In addition to
these efforts, most states have limited the harvest of bull trout and efforts to restore salmon in
the Columbia River basin are expected to benefit bull trout as well.

A new high-stakes game is being played out in financial centers around the world. Investors,
bankers, traders, municipalities, school systems, and Indian reservations are playing the
game with something like $14 trillion of other people's money.
The game is called "derivatives" and it is so complex that few really understand it. One
missed opportunity or a slight miscalculation can bring an empire crashing down. In late 1994,
Orange County Treasurer Robert Citron spun the wheel and lost $1.5 billion, giving the
citizens of Orange County up-close experience with bankruptcy.
In early 1995, Nicholas Leeson, a trader in Singapore, single-handedly brought the 232-year-
old London investment banking firm of Barings into complete financial failure. After losing
$128 million of his company's money, Nippon Steel Chemical's accounting director decided
the only way out was beneath the wheels of a train. Other companies ranging from Proctor
and Gamble to Metallgesellschaft have lost hundreds of millions to billions of dollars.
Yet as high as these numbers are, there is a much bigger game in town. One that trifles not in
the paltry million and billion dollar antes of these financial parlor games, but rather in the
currency of survival itself: survival of individual species and, some say, of the human race.
The game of biodiversity is so complex that it makes financial instruments such as derivatives
look like children's toys. Yet clear indications of biodiversity loss can be found in the extinction
or near-extinction of numerous species of wildlife, including some 1,000 species in the U.S.
One chip laid down in this biological roulette is the bull trout. Having survived millennia of
glacial retreat, this habitat-selective fish is facing an onslaught of problems its genetic makeup
is ill equipped to deal with. The degree and extent of the bull trout decline did not come to the
public attention until 1992 when Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks contracted
for the preparation of a status review of the bull trout in Montana (Thomas 1992). This report
concluded that bull trout distribution was less than 50 percent of the historic range and that
many of the remaining populations were in danger of extinction.
Subsequently, in the fall of 1992, three Montana-based conservation groups petitioned to
have the bull trout listed as an endangered species. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
reviewed this petition and developed its own status report on the bull trout in 1994. The
agency ruled that the bull trout warranted protection under the Endangered Species Act, but
was precluded from listing because there are other species of higher concern that must be
dealt with first. The bull trout was then classified as a Category 1 candidate species for listing
under the Endangered Species Act.
As required by law, the Fish & Wildlife Service reviewed bull trout status again in 1995 and
issued another warranted-but-precluded ruling. The act requires the agency to annually
review the status of the bull trout until it is either listed as threatened or determined not to be
warranted for listing.

            Understanding the Game--Bull Trout Life History
Members of the North American salmon family (trout, charr, salmon, whitefish, and grayling)
are Arctic and north temperate fishes generally restricted to cold, clear lakes and streams.
Members of the salmon family tend to be highly migratory frequently spawning in specific
streams and maturing as adults in other bodies of water. Anadromous salmon are a good
example of an extreme case of this migratory behavior.
In general, North American salmonids were biologically highly successful species in their
appropriate habitats, and during presettlement times they were incredibly abundant and
usually the dominant fish species in occupied northern streams and rivers. During the past
century under the umbrella of modern fisheries management, the relationship of salmonid
fishes--their abundance, distribution, and species composition--has changed radically. Like
many of its Pacific Northwest relatives, the bull trout (Salvelinus confluentus) is one of the
successful salmonid species that is now in decline.
The original range of the bull trout is the Pacific Northwest, including western Canada,
southeastern Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and western Montana. There is even one
isolated population in Nevada. It also occurred in California, but was extirpated by 1975 from
the single river in which it occurred (Bond, 1992 and Reiman and McIntyre, 1993). The bull
trout is also present in headwater areas east of the Continental Divide in Alberta.
The bull trout closely resembles the Dolly Varden (S. malma), an anadromous trout found in
coastal streams. In fact, until 1978 the bull trout was considered the same species as, but an
inland form of, the Dolly Varden. The bull trout received its common name because of its large
head and mouth, and aggressive predacious habits.
All salmonids have very specific habitat requirements for water temperature and clarity, and
the bull trout tends to be more specific than other trout species for cool water temperatures,
clear water and appropriate gravel substrate for spawning. It is considered as a habitat
specialist because of these specific habitat requirements.
The bull trout probably reached its peak distribution and abundance during and after the most
recent glacial period when there was an abundance of clear cold water streams (Bond, 1992).
Biologists believe that during this period bull trout were commonly anadromous, thus
explaining their occurrence in isolated coastal drainages.
A century ago, bull trout populations were healthy throughout the Northwest. Since then they
have been in an ever-accelerating decline. Like most fish and wildlife species at risk, their
decline is fueled by increasing habitat reduction, alteration, and loss.
Bull trout divide into two basic population types: resident and migratory. Resident fish spawn,
mature and spend their entire life within a single stream. Resident fish are frequently found in
the headwaters of major drainages and were formerly only a minor segment of the bull trout
Migratory bull trout can be adfluvial, migrating between streams where they spawn and lakes
or reservoirs where they spend most of their lives, or they can be fluvial, migrating between
larger rivers where they live and the smaller streams in which they spawn (Pratt, 1992). Bull
trout are in a small area of coastal Washington are anadromous, spawning in fresh water
while living most of their lives in salt water (USFS, unpublished report). Anadromy was once
probably more common in the species.
The bull trout is a highly predacious fish, feeding heavily on aquatic insects when small, and
on other fishes as an adult. However, bull trout are opportunistic feeders taking almost any
organism of suitable size when available. Frogs, snakes, mice, and ducklings have all been
recorded in bull trout food habits studies.
Bull trout become sexually mature at around four years of age with spawning occurring from
September through November. Migratory bull trout move upstream as pairs and may spawn
every year or every other year. Redd sites (actual nest sites chosen for spawning) are
situated in gravel bars in shallow cold streams. Studies have shown that the addition of fine
silts to gravel bars will significantly decrease spawning success (table one) (Weaver and
White 1985).
The incubation period for bull trout eggs is extremely long and young fry may take up to 225
days to emerge from the gravel bars. Consequently bull trout are extremely vulnerable to
siltation problems and bed load movement during this period. Young migrant bull trout may
remain in their natal streams for two or three years. Complex migration patterns and
strategies are characteristic of bull trout, dolly varden, and Arctic char.

Table One
Life History Summary for the Bull Trout.
Age at first reproduction
     4-5 years
Number of eggs produced
     1,300 to 9,000
Maximum size
     greater than 30 pounds and 36 inches
Life span
up to 10 years
Food habits
juveniles insectivorous adults piscivorous
Incubation success--temperature
      0-2 deg.C=80-95 percent success
      6 deg.C=60-90 percent success
      8-9 deg.C=0-20 percent success
Incubation success--fine sediments
      20 percent fines=40 percent success
      30 percent fines=20 percent success
      40 percent fines=1 percent success
Migration strategies
      resident, adfluvial, fluvial, anadromous
Closely related species
      dolly varden, lake trout, brook trout
Optimal/maximum water temperature
      4-9 deg.C-15 deg.C juveniles, 18 deg.C adults
Spawning season
      September through November
Spawning substrate H2O depth/H2O flow
      gravel 0.2-0.8 m/ 0.2-0.6 m/s

                  Dealt a Losing Hand--Bull Trout Decline
At the beginning of this century, bull trout was abundant throughout most drainages within its
occupied range. However, because of the migratory behavior of the bull trout, their distribution
within occupied drainages tended to be patchy (Shelly Spalding, pers. commun.). Although no
one ever attempted to document bull trout populations earlier in this century, it is now known
that bull trout populations are highly fragmented and large segments of major rivers are
almost devoid of bull trout.
Biologists have known of the bull trout's decline for at least two decades, but until recently
management agencies have done little to reverse this process. Typically, state fish and wildlife
agencies focused their management efforts on salmon or introduced trout. In Washington, for
example, conservation efforts have been focused on salmon and little attention was paid to
the bull trout (Shelly Spalding, pers. commun.).
It was not until Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks funded a status report on bull
trout in 1992 (Thomas 1992) that the precarious position of the bull trout became apparent.
This review found that stream reaches occupied by bull trout averaged 42 percent for 11,759
miles of potential waterways in Montana. Based on the current distribution of bull trout, the
report assumed that all these waterways were historically occupied by bull trout. The review
concluded that many of the Montana bull trout populations are isolated and at high risk of
extinction. The degree of bull trout decline in Montana surprised both state and federal
management agencies.
Fisheries management is complicated by a feud between state conservation agencies that
manage fish and wildlife populations and the federal agencies that manage much fish and
wildlife habitat and have authority over endangered species.
    • State agencies claim that mismanagement of federal habitat and ill-conceived federal
      programs such as animal damage control, irrigation projects, and hydroelectric dam
      are at the root of species declines.
    • Federal agencies counter that the states have failed to manage fish and wildlife
      species properly and that federal protection is required due to neglect on the part of the
Unfortunately for the bull trout, both views are accurate. Federal land management and
myopic federal programs ignored the ecology of salmonids and contributed to the decline of
bull trout. Yet until recently the states have stood by and managed the bull trout, a game fish
in most states, into oblivion.
Rather than being continuously distributed throughout all major rivers systems of the Pacific
Northwest, the bull trout now exists as scattered small populations isolated by large stretches
of unoccupied habitat. Metapopulation function has been largely disabled and local
populations are now extremely vulnerable to extirpation. This trend is particularly disturbing
because it fits well into the formula for extinction:
    1. Fragment the population;
    2. Degrade the habitat; and
    3. Introduce catastrophic events.
Aquatic ecosystems are as different from terrestrial systems as water is from earth. Fresh
water systems in the Pacific Northwest are basically a linear environment. Imagine mainstem
rivers as rope and tributary streams as string. Break the rope in a few places and it soon
becomes impossible for fish in one tributary stream to interact with those in another tributary
stream. Unlike terrestrial systems where the shortest dispersal route between two points can
be a straight line, fish must follow the sinuous course of streams and rivers. There are no
other options. For the bull trout, the strong portion of their habitat has already been severed
and it is mainly the strings which sustain them now.
The causes of this decline of bull trout are many and varied and have worked in concert with
each other to cumulatively impact this and other native salmonid species. Impacts on bull
trout can be categorized into three groups:
    1. problems with land management
    2. problems with water management and
    3. problems with fisheries management.
A detailed examination of each of these categories reveals that a century of ill conceived state
and federal government policies have contributed significantly to the decline of bull trout.

Land Management Problems--Habitat Degradation
It seems strange that an entirely aquatic organism can be impacted by land management
activities. However, some of the most significant factors suppressing bull trout populations
relates to how the land is managed. A survey of fisheries biologists in Idaho, Montana,
Nevada, Oregon and Washington was used to establish the types of impacts suppressing bull
trout populations and their relative importance. Overall, forest management practices was the
factor cited most often for suppressing bull trout populations (table two).
Table Two
Factors Suppressing Bull Trout Populations by State
     # of
State Pops Forest Agric. Mining Grazing Hydro Passage Harvest Poach Alien
ID     72  53 14     19    38    6    53   38   14   17
MT     234   54 25     10    16   26    42   21   42    60
NV      1  100  0     0    0    0 100 100 100          0
OR      54  82 44     15    48   15    43    11   4   65
WA      77  52 14      7    9   23    29    3   34   33
Total 438   57 24     11    22   21    42    19  31    49

Source: Fish & Wildlife Service, "Warranted but precluded administrative twelve-month
finding on petition to list the bull trout under the Endangered Species Act," Portland, Oregon,
1994. Data based on reports by knowledgeable fisheries biologists. Figures for suppressing
factors are a percentage. Most populations are suppressed by more than one factor.
The influence of poorly executed land management practices related to logging, grazing, and
roads on stream characteristics is well documented. Poor management practices influence
both the immediate impacted area and a considerable distance down stream from increased
sediment loads in the stream. Approximately 60 percent of the watersheds in Idaho and
Montana west of the divide are extensively degraded from land management practices
(logging, roads, grazing) (Isaacson 1994). Only 18 percent of all bull trout populations and
stream segments rangewide are not threatened by degraded conditions. It should come as no
surprise that fisheries biologists frequently report that bull trout spawning strongholds are
associated with unmanaged watersheds with near pristine streams.
The bull trout is a very sensitive indicator of overall riverine ecosystem health in the Pacific
Northwest. Among the salmon family, the bull trout is perhaps one of the most stringent for
requiring clean cold water for successful reproduction and survival. Bull trout have little
tolerance of waters warmer than 64deg. F (Sandborn, 1995), and it is very sensitive to
sedimentation of streams. Exceed their tolerance limits for either of these factors and the bull
trout disappears.
Like the childrens' game of "Pickup-Stix," where the players must remove individual sticks
from a heap without disturbing the rest, tinkering with various forms of habitat degradation
works synergistically to affect overall change. For example, removal of riparian vegetation
through logging, or overgrazing, and the amount of instream woody debris--a critical
component of bull trout habitat--also decreases (Ziller, 1992). The reduced stream cover also
results in increased stream temperatures, often exceeding the 64deg. F limit to which bull
trout are so sensitive. All activities which cause a loss of riparian buffer zones, including
overgrazing, logging, road construction, and home-building; also increase overland flow of
runoff to the stream, carrying increased sediment loads and increasing bank destabilization
through higher velocities.
In addition to riparian vegetation destruction, improper grazing often leads to collapsing
streambanks, increasing sediment loadings, and increasing the streams width-to-depth ratio
(Ziller, 1992 and Bader et al., 1993). Streams suffering from such affects warm faster because
they are wider and shallower, exposing more units of water to warming per unit of sunlight. In
addition, collapsed banks reduce suitable bank habitat available to bull trout.
Mining activities have also impacted the bull trout. Mine-related diversions often dewater
entire streams, and toxic discharges from improper mining operations and failed tailings
ponds are responsible for large fish kills (Bader et al., 1993). The Clark Fork River in western
Montana has been severely impacted by heavy metals leached from mine tailings. Fish kills in
the Clark Fork River have repeatedly occurred following heavy rains which flush toxic
substances into the River. There is little question that this has suppressed the bull trout
population in this river (Thomas 1992).
Although not cited as a major impact to bull trout, suburban development has probably also
played a role in reducing habitat. Home construction along streams and rivers often results in
riparian vegetation reduction and removal of woody debris, and there may be increased
pollutant loadings to streams from septic systems. Suburban development and population
growth are also responsible for stream dewatering to meet domestic water supply demands.
Habitat degradation and its link to the decline of bull trout is well established. It should be of
no surprise that the few secure populations of bull trout occur in near pristine watersheds (e.g.
South Fork of the Flathead River). Biologists and concerned citizens have spoken out about
poor timber harvest practices and excessive livestock grazing for years. Habitat degradation
is a crucial step towards promoting species extinctions. Unfortunately, many of the these bull
trout habitat impacts occur as a result of subsidized federal programs for timber harvest and
livestock grazing. Moreover, many of these impacts could be avoided or mitigated through
proper environmental analysis and planning.

Water Management Problems:
Hydropower, Passage Barriers, and Irrigation
Water management problems can impact bull trout by fragmenting populations, changing
water flow patterns, and degrading water quality. Dams and other passage barriers are
collectively a significant impact to bull trout throughout their range (table two) and result in
fragmented populations--an important first step towards extinction.
Metapopulation function can be disabled by a series of dams on the major rivers such as in
the Columbia River basin. Passage barriers delay or even block upstream migration of adult
bull trout to their spawning areas (Ratliff and Howell, 1992, Craig and Wissmar 1993) and can
also limit genetic interchange between bull trout populations, isolating the resulting
subpopulations and reducing genetic diversity.
There are numerous examples of the impacts of passage barriers on bull trout. Many
migratory bull trout populations have been extirpated as a result of dams in the Columbia
River basin (Brown 1992, Goetz 1991) and bull trout populations on the upper Columbia River
are clearly fragmented by dams without adequate fish passage facilities. The extirpation of
bull trout from the McCloud River in California is attributed to construction of a major dam in
However, the role of dams, is not universally viewed as bad by fisheries managers. Although
dams on the Flathead and Swan Rivers in Montana may have curtailed population exchange
on the Flathead River system, Montana Department of Fish Wildlife and Parks personnel
claim that these dams have restricted introduced lake trout to Flathead Lake and protected
upstream populations of bull trout. This view does not consider that bull trout would have
done better without the dams and without the introduction of lake trout.
Use of river water for irrigation of agricultural crops is perhaps one of the most significant
impacts to bull trout on mainstem rivers (Brian Sandborn, Chris Hunter, pers. commun.).
Irrigation creates at least four major problems for bull trout.
    • First, it removes water from the river and reduces instream flows. Up to 80 percent of
      the stream flow has been removed from some rivers for irrigation purposes.
    • Second, irrigation return water is frequently warmer than 64deg. F and creates a
      thermal barrier that can also serve to behaviorally block fish from spawning areas and
      reduce the genetic diversity. Up to 90 percent of the flow in the lower portions of some
      rivers is irrigation return water.
    • Third, irrigation return water is laden with sediments and agricultural chemicals
      representing a major source of point and non-point source pollution.
    • Fourth, migrating juvenile bull trout may also be lost through unscreened diversions
      and passage through dams. (Ratliff and Howell, 1992 and Ziller, 1992). This direct
      mortality of juvenile bull trout can be significant. In addition, some irrigation projects are
      coupled with major dams which represent as passage barriers
Many of the water management problems can be traced back to federal programs to supply
electricity to the region and irrigation water for agricultural crops. These programs were
designed with little or no consideration for the bull trout and many of these projects have been
subsidized with federal money .

Fisheries Management Problems
In addition to land and water management problems, the plight of the bull trout has been
compounded by a century of poor fisheries management decisions and practices. Around the
turn of the century brook trout were introduced into the rivers and streams of the northern
Rocky Mountains without consideration of the impacts this would have on native salmonids
through competition and hybridization. This was followed with the introduction of other non-
native salmonids. Shortly after this, many fisheries managers regarded the bull trout as a pest
species and specifically tried to exterminate it.
For example, during 1913 and 1914 in Montana, large-scale commercial net-fishing was
permitted in an attempt to eradicate the species (Brown, 1971). As recently as 1990 programs
were conducted to eliminate bull trout through direct killing of the fish by paying bounties and
poisoning of waterways (Simpson and Wallace, 1978, Ratliff and Howell 1992). Many of these
poisoning programs were funded by the federal government through the Dingell-Johnson
The view of the bull trout as a pest species probably originated because of its original
abundance as a highly successful species and its extreme predatory habits on eggs and
juveniles of other salmonid fish species. With the introduction of non-native salmonids to
western waterways, a native fish feeding on introduced stock could not be tolerated.
The fisheries management problems exploded into an ecological nightmare with the
introduction of non-native salmonids into the rivers and streams of the Pacific Northwest. The
brook trout that was first introduced into Montana in 1889 is native to the Hudson Bay and
Labrador regions in Canada, and the upper Mississippi and the Appalachians regions of the
United States. It was extensively propagated and introduced into Montana steams and lakes
until 1954.
The brook trout is genetically close enough to the bull trout to permit hybridization. Offspring
of the bull trout/brook trout cross are infertile. Brook trout have a higher fecundity rate and
lower age at first reproduction (2 years old vs. 4 years old) so that when bull trout and brook
trout occur in the same waters, the brook trout will numerically swamp the bull trout because
of their greater reproductive potential. The problems of habitat overlap and forage competition
between bull trout and brook trout have not even been examined. This may also be a major
concern for bull trout conservation, especially in headwater areas where bull trout are
frequently isolated as non-migratory populations.
Rainbow, brown, and lake trout were also introduced to Montana around 1890 and have
occupied mainstem streams and lakes formerly inhabited by bull trout. These species may
compete with bull trout for forage resources and this can be aggravated by stocking of
hatchery rainbow trout at artificially high densities. Lake trout are in the process of replacing
bull trout in Flathead Lake in Northwestern Montana, formerly considered a bull trout
stronghold, and there are at least two other cases where lake trout have been documented
displacing bull trout. Brown trout are believed to be in direct competition with bull trout
because they achieve similar size of bull trout and have overlapping spawning seasons.
The problem of introduction of alien salmonids and planting of hatchery fishes does not stop
with hybridization, habitat overlap, and forage competition. The introduction of exotic fish into
the streams inhabited by bull trout has also introduced new diseases into the ecosystem.
Whirling disease, which is an internal parasite that affects the cartilage in juvenile trout and
causes them to swim in an erratic manner, is now present in both the upper Clark Fork and
Swan River systems in Montana. Whirling disease has been found in wild rainbow, brook and
brown trout in Montana. Whirling disease was introduced to North America from Europe in
1956 and was first reported in the Rocky Mountain west in 1987. It has spread rapidly
throughout the West as a result of stocking infected hatchery fishes but it is also capable of
spreading throughout river systems by natural dispersal.
Although whirling disease has not been documented in bull trout, only one attempt has been
made to study this disease in bull trout. That study failed when eggs collected in Montana
were not kept in a chilled environment at a California fish hatchery. Brook trout have been
documented with whirling disease in Montana and based on their genetic similarities with bull
trout, it would not be unreasonable to expect bull trout to be susceptible to whirling disease
too. Whirling disease has the potential to be a catastrophic event capable of causing
extirpation of local bull trout populations.
Due to their aggressive predatory nature, bull trout are easily caught by anglers, and as a
result, are extremely susceptible to overharvest and poaching (illegal harvest). Although
poaching is presently a minor problem, when bull trout were more abundant there was a
significant illegal harvest in western Montana (Stephen Duke, pers. commun.). Overharvest of
bull trout becomes very important in isolated populations that are already reduced through
land and water management problems. State fish and wildlife departments within the range of
bull trout have been slow to adjust their management of bull trout.
Although all states have restricted legal harvest of bull trout in most bodies of water, these
restrictions were generally not implemented until after 1990. Many streams, rivers, and lakes
inhabited by bull trout now have mandatory catch-and-release restrictions, but this relies upon
education of fishermen to properly identify fish species and to properly handle bull trout for
effective survival after release. However, it is believed that incidental take of bull trout is not a
significant factor in their decline (Stephen Duke, pers. commun.)
The fact that state fish and wildlife agencies permitted a game fish species to decline to the
point of being threatened with extinction without adjusting their management of the species
does not speak highly of their concern for native fish species or their level of population
monitoring. In some cases, the bull trout may have been overshadowed by salmon
conservation and introduced salmonid fisheries.
Yet it is still relevant to ask, "What were state fish and wildlife agencies doing for the past two
decades?" The whole concept of managed fish and wildlife populations is that license fees
and excise taxes on hunting and fishing equipment is to be used to monitor game species
populations to prevent over harvest. If the populations of game species are not being
effectively monitored, there should be no legal harvest.

                                  Catastrophic Events
The formula for extinction is to fragment the populations, degrade existing habitat, and
superimpose a catastrophic event on the remaining isolated populations. A classic example of
this was a distinct resident Gulf Coast whooping crane population being lost during a major
hurricane in the 1950s. Had the whooping crane population been large and robust, birds
outside the path of the hurricane would have soon filled the void left by birds killed in the
hurricane. Without this metapopulation function, that isolated population was tragically lost
The bull trout is rapidly moving to a position that catastrophic events can result in extirpation
of isolated populations. For example, in 1992, on Overwhich Creek on the Bitterroot National
Forest in Montana, a major landslide resulting from excessive logging destroyed an estimated
600 bull trout. Following a catastrophic event such as this, it is difficult for the few surviving
fishes to reestablish a viable population without immigration from other populations.
We can hope that the human-caused catastrophic events--dams, irrigation projects, logging,
grazing, introduced fish species--that have contributed to bull trout decline will not be
repeated in the future, but even this is not a certainty. The Columbia River basin seems to
have been developed to its potential for dams and irrigation projects but the demand for
electricity and irrigation water is likely to increase in the future. There are suitable sites for
additional dams but there is tremendous public resistance against even small scale
hydropower (Bill Horton, pers commun.).
Timber harvest in the Pacific Northwest will continue and will probably cumulatively impact
watersheds. Grazing reform has been recently discussed but the odds of actual on the ground
change are slim. There will also be catastrophic events in the future which are likely to impact
apparently secure isolated bull trout populations but are largely beyond the control of
management agencies. Many of these catastrophic events would not be of major concern if
bull trout metapopulations still existed.
Five catastrophic events appear reasonably certain to occur in portions of the bull trout range
at some time in the future. These catastrophic events have a high probability of extirpating
small isolated populations and contributing to further declines in bull trout numbers and range

Introduced Disease
Introduced diseases have figured significantly in the decline of several North American wildlife
species. Sylvatic plague has been affecting prairie dog populations for nearly a half century
and is partially the cause for the precarious position of the black-footed ferret. The upper
respiratory tract disease syndrome in desert tortoises prompted the emergency listing of that
species in 1989 when it was determined that the disease was capable of killing over 90
percent of the tortoises over broad geographic areas. Disease has not been a documented
problem with bull trout but whirling disease cannot be ruled out as a threat to this species.
From 1991-1994, whirling disease appeared to reduce rainbow trout populations by 90
percent in a 50 mile segment of the Madison River, and if similar events occurred in an
isolated bull trout population it is doubtful that population recovery would be possible given
existing land management and water management problems.

Catastrophic Fire
During the summer of 1988, it became apparent that catastrophic wildlife is a normal episodic
event in the northern Rocky Mountains. In that year, landscape scale fire occurred in
Yellowstone National Park, burning about half of the forested habitat in the park. Catastrophic
fire can drastically alter water quality, water temperature, wood debris, bank vegetation, and
stream flow characteristics. Wildfire has already been documented as impacting bull trout
populations (Shelly Spalding, pers. commun.). Wilderness areas with near pristine
watersheds such as the upper portion of the South Fork of the Flathead River in Montana are
considered bull trout strongholds. Ultimately, at some point conditions will be right for a large
scale wildfire in these wilderness settings that exceed the capabilities of government fire
suppression efforts.
Based on our knowledge of bull trout habitat requirements large scale fire in these areas will
result in population declines in the affected watersheds. Prior to fragmentation of bull trout
populations, metapopulation function would have assured population recovery in watersheds
impacted by fire as reforestation progressed. This may not be the case anymore for these
supposedly secure populations which are now isolated by dams (e.g. Hungry Horse
Reservoir) and degraded downstream habitat.

Salvage Timber Sales
When Congress passed the rescission bill in the summer of 1995 cutting 16 billion dollars
from the federal budget they attached a rider to this bill enacting legislation that permitted
significant harvest of "salvage" timber. The salvage measure will remain in effect through the
end of fiscal 1996 and any sale prepared, advertised, awarded, or logged during this period
will automatically be deemed to satisfy the requirements of all applicable federal laws. This
includes the act, Forest Management Act, Clean Water Act, and National Environmental
Policy Act and in addition, the sales are not subject to the Forest Service appeals process.
The definition of salvage logging is sufficiently broad that timber stands do not need to have
substantial quantities of dead trees to qualify for harvest (Clint McCarthy pers. commun.).
Much of this timber harvest will be directed to previously unroaded areas and has the
potential to degrade watersheds that presently support bull trout (Shelly Spalding pers.
commun.). Based on the existing data on the relationship of bull trout to logged watersheds,
salvage logging has a high potential to impact isolated bull trout populations.
For example, the Payette National Forest is likely to offer 27 salvage sales that will require
about 100 miles of new roads in watersheds inhabited by the bull trout. Sales and road
construction are planned on several other forests where bull trout are known to occur,
including the Boise (10 miles of new road) and Clearwater (16 miles of new road) (John
McCarthy, pers. commun.).
Salvage logging is entirely under the control and jurisdiction of national forest managers. If
any isolated bull trout population is lost as a result of salvage timber sales, it will be with the
blessings of the Forest Service and Congress. The Forest Service says that timber sales will
be conducted in accordance with existing federal laws (Rick Stowl, pers. commun.), but the
level of compliance remains to be seen.
Fall and winter floods in 1995 and 1996 led to numerous landslides in Pacific Northwest
forests. Forest Service inventories of landslides indicate that most were associated with
logging roads, many were associated with clearcuts, and few took place in pristine forests.
Karen Pratt has studied bull trout in Lighting Creek, a tributary to the Pend Oreille River in
northern Idaho, for more than a decade and has documented periodic landslides resulting
from logging and roads. During this period, Lighting Creek has become a braided stream due
to excessive sediment loads and bull trout numbers have substantially declined. Salvage
logging in formerly unroaded areas will predictably degrade watersheds and further reduce
bull trout populations.

Drought is a recurrent climate feature in the Pacific Northwest and may occur over a series of
years. Although drought is not predictable, it is nearly certain that it will occur at some point in
the future as a normal variation in climate. Drought will result in reduced summer stream flows
and increased water temperature and will predictably reduce spawning success and survival
of bull trout. This factor may become increasingly important in areas where bull trout
populations are doing poorly due other impacts. Drought also has the potential to impact
watersheds over a large area as opposed to other catastrophic events which are generally
restricted to a specific watershed. Simultaneously impacting several bull trout populations
over a broad region may have cumulative affects that may make population recovery difficult
when normal precipitation patterns return.

Climate Change
While it may be appropriate to consider the bull trout as an ice age fish dependent upon
clean, cold water for successful reproduction and survival and that its historic distribution is
reduced from the Pleistocene, it is inappropriate to consider this as a species marked for
extinction because it cannot adapt to a changing climate. At the turn of the century, there was
an abundance of rivers in the Pacific Northwest that were suitable for bull trout. It has been
human-caused changes in these streams that have brought about the decline of bull trout.
However, should predictions of global warming become true during the next century, only a
small rise in temperature could significantly reduce bull trout spawning success. Low
elevation bull trout populations might suffer most, but it also might be more difficult to maintain
isolated populations at the head waters of major drainages.

                   Figuring the Odds--Bull Trout Extinction
Although the decline of the bull trout seems to be a recent occurrence, in reality it probably
has been a long-term process during this century that could have been easily predicted as the
dams went up, the trees were cut and the region's human population grew. Just as the bison
and prairie dog ecosystems were targeted and destroyed as part of government policy, the
riverine ecosystems in the Columbia River basin have been targeted and destroyed by
government policies. Albeit the government did not have malicious intent in this case, the
results are the same--a disabled ecosystem.
It is difficult to imagine any other outcome with the number of dams on the major drainages
within this region, the degree of timber harvest and associated roads, the level of agricultural
development in the major valleys, and the lack of management concern by conservation
agencies. The fact that the bull trout is not the only fish in this system that is decline suggests
that these impacts are real and biologically highly significant.
The accumulation of disturbances to its habitat have left the bull trout in a very precarious and
dangerous situation. The populations are highly fragmented, isolated mainly in headwater
areas in the upper portions of watersheds.
Habitat fragmentation is dangerous for any species. Extinction becomes more probable
through risks that are deterministic (permanent or long-term loss or change of a critical
component of habitat), stochastic (random variations in demographics or in the environment),
or genetic (inability to adapt to changing environmental conditions because of limited genetic
diversity) (Rieman and McIntyre, 1993).
Fragmented populations are genetically cut off from each other, greatly increasing the odds
that they will not be able to draw from a large population base or gene pool to help hedge
their bets against a changing environment or random events. It is important to realize that
deterministic, stochastic, and genetic risks can work in concert to extinguish a species. An
isolated population has little chance of being refounded following a local extinction as
compared to adjacent subpopulations where dispersal to vacated habitat will reestablish a lost
population. As populations become isolated, the probability of local extinctions becoming
permanent increases and the entire metapopulation moves incrementally toward extinction.
In an effort to quantify extinction risks for isolated populations of bull trout, Rieman and
McIntyre (1993) utilized several population viability techniques which incorporate both
deterministic and stochastic processes. One technique is based on population simulation, and
the other on analytical projections of population trend. The first technique requires a large
volume of information or assumptions which are unavailable for bull trout, while the second
requires time series data on abundance. Redd count data can be used in this analysis.
Thus using redd counts as a method of estimating variance in rates of change, they found a
high degree of variability among populations. In short, the estimated probability that any bull
trout population would persist for 100 years ranged from less than 0.10 to more than 0.95.
Even given the fact that these analyses are first approximations, and that the science of
estimating extinction risks is new and evolving, the numbers don't look good. No studied
population was certain to survive for 100 years based on present trend data.
Moreover, this analysis did not take into account the probability of catastrophic events and
high potential for extirpation of local populations. For example, if a proposed open pit gold
mine is developed adjacent to the Blackfoot River in Montana as planned, and water quality is
diminished, will the small population of bull trout in this river survive?
Many of the existing bull trout populations are small with only 200-1,000 individuals
remaining. Just from the genetic standpoint alone survival of these populations is uncertain.
Conservation biologists estimate that at least 2,000 individuals are required to maintain a
genetically diverse population. Management of small bull trout populations will require special
attention on the part of fish and wildlife agencies. There is some question if these agencies
have the technical expertise, financial resources, and the political backing required to assure
the long-term population persistence of bull trout in the Pacific Northwest. However, if nothing
is done, it is quite likely that the bull trout's days are numbered.
Stop-gap measures or mediocre management might get isolated bull trout populations
through a ten- or twenty-year period, but there is a relatively high probability that many
populations will not survive to the end of the next century without some direct management of
populations. It is difficult to think beyond the next century, but it is imperative to develop long-
term conservation strategies. It is apparent that bull trout did not come through the first
century of settlement in the Columbia River basin in good shape and there will probably be
additional cumulative impacts to these riverine ecosystems in the coming century.
Failure to act now to preserve existing bull trout populations may result in a future situation
similar to that of the whooping crane, California condor, or black-footed ferret. It has been
clearly demonstrated with these and other endangered species that when you are down to the
last small population it is exceedingly difficult to reestablish new populations or even maintain
the existing population under natural conditions. For the bull trout, the cumulative impacts of a
variety of factors working against it will make population recovery very difficult. If overharvest
were the only impact affecting bull trout, it would be reasonable to assume that stopping bull
trout fishing would allow the species to recover. However, with the variety of land, water, and
fisheries management problems already firmly in place, it is unlikely that reducing a single
impact will result in widespread recovery of bull trout.
The bull trout is simply a symptom of a much larger problem in the Columbia River basin. The
riverine ecosystem in this region has been heavily impacted during this century and the fishes
and other aquatic life adapted to this system are suffering greatly as a result of these impacts.
Nearly all native salmonids, the white sturgeon, and possibly other fishes are in decline (Rick
Stowl, pers. commun.). It is difficult to imagine that these impacts will ever be reversed or that
they will not become more severe as the human population of this region continues to
If management agencies are to succeed in saving the bull trout, they are going to have to
develop aggressive policies favoring the bull trout that are based on a sound recovery plan.
This action will require the cooperation of both state and federal agencies and will also require
political support. If politicians are promoting the concept that some species are too expensive
to save and that they should be allowed to go extinct, then that outcome may be a reality.

              A Rigged Game--How'd we get here, Anyway?
Much of the bull trout's dilemma relates to being in the wrong place at the wrong time--a fish
swimming in the way of "progress." While the bull trout may be a fish swimming in the way of
progress, much of that progress has been promoted by the federal government with little
regard for the effects on bull trout or other wildlife populations.
In fact, federal policies have effectively rewarded, with tax breaks or subsidies, the alteration,
reduction, and destruction of bull trout habitat. Meanwhile, the government has done little or
nothing to evaluate these impacts of those policies on bull trout. Nor has the government tried
to provide incentives to preserve bull trout populations and habitat.
While we cannot quantify their direct impacts on bull trout specifically, numerous policies and
programs have certainly helped endangered species across the threshold to extinction. These
include tax policies, irrigation and agricultural programs, and public land management

Tax Policies
According to a recent report from the Center for International Environmental Law (Clark and
Downes, 1995), there are a number of tax policies which may have contributed to impacts on
endangered and threatened species, including bull trout. The first of these, Section 613 of the
Internal Revenue Service Code, allows a percentage depletion for extractive activities, that is,
it allows for a flat percentage deduction of gross revenues earned from mining property. This
deduction is unrelated to the taxpayer's investment in the property, and can, over time,
exceed the costs of investment and mineral extraction. In addition to fostering environmental
damage, this allowance costs the U.S. Treasury an annual loss of revenue exceeding over $1
billion from the fuel and non-fuels extraction industries.
Section 617 of the IRS Code allows mineral extraction industries to deduct the costs related
to exploration expenses, including drilling, testing, and construction of shafts and tunnels, in
the year they occur, rather than over the life of the project. This encourages activity in remote
and inaccessible locations, and costs the U.S. Treasury between $50 and $100 million dollars
a year. In addition, Section 263(c) enables oil, gas, and geothermal well operators to deduct
"intangible" drilling expenses, including the cost of labor, fuel, materials, supplies, repairs to
equipment, and depreciation of drilling equipment.
Section 48 allows a deduction of 10 percent of the portion of amortizable basis of
reforestation expenses up to $10,000 for qualified timber property. To qualify, however, this
land must "contain trees in significant commercial quantities and which is held . . . for sale or
use in the commercial production of timber products." If you want the deduction, you have to
cut down the trees first!
Section 163(h) of the IRS Code allows for acquisition indebtedness (up to $1,000,000) or
home equity indebtedness (up to $100,000) for a qualified residence. A qualified residence
may be either a primary or secondary home. In 1993, it cost the U.S. Treasury $44 billion, and
in 1997 is expected to cost $60 billion. This is particularly unfortunate in that many second
homes are vacation homes constructed in areas where their presence is more likely to incur
environmental impacts. While it may seem insignificant, it may be very important to survival of
isolated bull trout populations.

Irrigation and Agricultural Programs
Massive federal programs placed some of the worlds largest dams on the Columbia River and
its tributaries during the past 50 years and developed a variety of ambitious irrigation projects.
Tracking down federal, state, and local government contributions to bull trout impacts is
difficult. Before proceeding very far along this route, one is quickly brought up short by the
debate over what does and does not constitute a subsidy. Although exhaustive search of
Internet resources turned up little in way of long-term, detailed cost-effectiveness analyses of
governmental programs, there are a few case studies which help shed light on this issue.
One of these is an examination of irrigation subsidies comprising the Central Valley Project in
Central California (GAO, 1994c):
Irrigators within the Department of Interior's Bureau of Reclamation Central Valley Project
(CVP) have received federally subsidized water for up to 40 years under fixed-rate water
service contracts. However, the fixed rates no longer function as intended; they do not cover
the Bureau's operation and maintenance costs and have not been sufficient to repay virtually
any of the $1 billion in the construction costs owed. Moreover, environmental and water use
problems have been associated with irrigation practices carried out under these contracts.
It would be safe to say that this scenario is probably common to most, if not all, federally-
funded irrigation projects in the United States.
Such programs encourage habitat alteration, reduction, and loss by providing cost-incentives
to conduct environmentally harmful activities. The World Resources Institute states that direct
government payments to agricultural producers in 1993 totaled more than $17 billion. Of that
total amount, only $1.9 billion went to conservation programs (World Resources Institute,
Other agricultural subsidies, such as price support programs, are tied to productivity, and thus
result in incentives to convert marginal lands to agricultural purposes, and to maximize the
utilization of fertilizers and pesticides (Clark and Downes, 1995). Such incentives affect not
only bull trout, but all threatened and endangered species.

Public Land Management
At the same time that the federal government has aided irrigation and agriculture, the Forest
Service has promoted systematic logging of the mountainous headwaters throughout bull
trout habitat. The Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management have also developed
livestock grazing programs that have put cattle on most of the rangelands administered by
these agencies.
These federal programs that have impacted bull trout have benefited many people in the
region economically but frequently this benefit has come at the expense of the American
taxpayer. In addition, there has been a lack of accountability on the part federal government
to fully evaluate the cost of these programs. Many of these programs are operated as a direct
subsidy to those that directly benefit from the program
Subsidies to the timber industry, again, are difficult to quantify. However, the Forest Service,
within the Department of Agriculture, manages 191 million acres of national forests and
grasslands. Many of the national forests within the bull trout's range, particularly in Idaho and
Montana, spend far more tax dollars on timber than they return to the federal treasury.

                              Eliminating Dirty Dealing
Until mechanisms are put in place to actually evaluate the real costs of environmental
impacts, it is unlikely that the bull trout will recover. There are a number of areas which need
to be addressed in order to accomplish this.

Redefining the Yardstick
Perhaps the most basic way of dealing with unbalanced economic incentives which impact
bull trout and other threatened and endangered species and their habitat is to begin
considering the actual costs associated with such environmental degradation. This should
begin with a re-evaluation of how costs and benefits are measured. The main indicator used
in making these assessments at present is the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Unfortunately, the GDP does not consider the economic benefits for "natural capital"
consisting of non-renewable resources, renewable resources, and environmental services
such as flood control, climate control, food provision, and genetic stock (Clark and Downes,
1995). Such convolutions lead to a rather bizarre interpretation of environmental impacts:
The current national income accounting system provides an example of a perverse economic
incentive. . . Rather than recognizing the Exxon Valdez spill for what it was, namely a decline
in the value of natural resources in the area, it is recorded as an increase in the national
income. The spill boosted GNP! All the clean-up expenditures served to increase national
income, but no account was taken of the consequent depreciation of the natural environment.
Under the current system, the accounts make no distinction between growth that is occurring
because a country is "cashing in" its natural resource endowment with a consequent
irreversible decline in its value and sustainable growth where the value of the endowment
remains. [Tietenberg, 1993]
A more balanced approach, requested by President Clinton, would have been pursued by the
U.S. Department of Commerce's Bureau of Economic Analysis. This effort, which would have
established the Integrated Economic and Environmental Satellite Accounts and extended the
definition of capital to include natural and environmental resources, was derailed by Congress
when they refused to fund it (Clark and Downes, 1995). Several international organizations,
including the United Nations and the World Bank, are suggesting alternative methods of
incorporating environmental values into economic analysis.

Dealing Straight
Additionally, it will be necessary to eliminate tax breaks, subsidies, and other economic
incentives which encourage damage to the environment and fuel the loss of habitat. Such
programs not only impact the environment, they are of questionable value in terms of their
overall fiscal soundness. In these days of unfathomable national debt, such subsidies need to
be carefully evaluated for not only their degree of economic soundness, but also determining
who actually benefits. Welfare reform should most certainly not exclude programs which offer
economic breaks to corporations and to the wealthy.
In addition, programs and incentives which promote environmental protection should be
forwarded. There are number of efforts underway to incorporate incentives for habitat
conservation. These include such things as wetland mitigation banking, individual transferable
quotas for fisheries protection, expansive use of environmental assurance bonding or
environmental insurance, and legal liability.
Wetland mitigation banking sets up a system whereby an entity can create or improve
wetlands in one area to be used as mitigation for impacts to other wetlands. Theoretically,
such wetland "credits" can be saved, cashed in, traded, or sold. Individual transferable quotas
are based on allocating a fixed number of shares which would allow catching a percentage of
the total allowable catch. These shares can be sold, leased, or transferred at will.
Environmental assurance bonding, common in the coal extraction industry, require a bond of
sufficient size to compensate for environmental impacts or lack of performance to be posted
prior to the activity. Legal liability imposes penalties on those who impact the environment.
While all of these mechanisms offer possible incentives to environmental protection, and may
have direct benefits to the bull trout, it will be critical to evaluate not only the environmental
soundness of such efforts, but also to monitor and track their application. In the past, many of
these types of programs, while looking quite good on paper, have serious and unforeseen
negative environmental ramifications.

         Changing the Odds--Bull Trout Conservation Efforts
Although long-term population persistence of the bull trout cannot assured, this declining
species still has sufficient distribution and numbers that should be responsive to restoration
efforts. Although the bull trout is not in the same situation of the black-footed ferret or
whooping crane which have only a single surviving population, it is a declining species, and it
is clear that action needs to be taken to prevent further declines.
States within the historic range of the bull trout have belatedly begun conservation efforts, and
Montana is considered a leader in this effort and is serving as a model for bull trout
restoration (Shelly Spalding, Stephen Duke, pers. commun.). Although it is too early to
determine if this effort will be adequate to reverse the decline of bull trout, it is a definitely a
major commitment by the state of Montana to restore the species. Montana has taken the
official position that the state will recover the species irrespective of the final outcome of
federal listing of the bull trout. This restoration effort began with a Governor's Bull Trout
Roundtable in December 1993.
The Bull Trout Roundtable consists of three main elements for developing and implementing a
recovery plan. These elements are a bull trout restoration team comprised of agency
administrators and interested public, a scientific group comprised of biologists with extensive
fisheries experience, and watershed groups comprised of residents living within one of 12
watersheds used by bull trout. The restoration process involves developing recovery plans for
each bull trout inhabited watershed (12 in Montana). These plans will be written by the
restoration team based on guidance from the scientific team. The plans will then be presented
to watershed groups for their input and advice on implementation. The restoration effort will
involve public involvement and input throughout the process. Although the process has been
time consuming, the restoration plans are progressing and the Blackfoot watershed is being
developed as a model for the other 11 watersheds. Presently, the scientific group is
developing status reports for each of the watersheds (Chris Hunter, Shelly Spalding pers.
In the interim, the 1995 Montana state legislature appropriated $1.6 million for stream
restoration work focused primarily on bull trout. The majority of this stream restoration work
has been concentrated on the Blackfoot River. Stream restoration has consisted of screening
irrigation water intakes, and fencing key riparian areas from cattle grazing (Chris Hunter, pers.
Intensive stream restoration was completed in 1992 on one tributary of the North Fork of the
Blackfoot River identified as an ancestral spawning stream. Bull trout had been eliminated
from the stream due to a series of passage barriers but upon their removal, mature bull trout
were observed to again use the stream (Thomas 1992).
The Department of State Lands has voluntarily discontinued timber harvest in Stream Side
Management Zones along streams inhabited by bull trout. Montana Department of Fish
Wildlife and Parks has also closed nearly all legal harvest of bull trout in the state. In addition,
the confluences of important bull trout tributaries are seasonally closed to fishing for the
protection of bull trout during spawning. Montana is also working on public education
concerning bull trout conservation and has plans to increase law enforcement efforts to
prevent poaching (Chris Hunter pers. commun.).
Although there are many factors still working against bull trout restoration in Montana, the
State has made a commitment both from the agency side and political side to recover the
species in Montana rivers and streams. The strategy employed by Montana for restoration of
bull trout is a vanguard effort and is applicable to other species at risk. Restoration of the bull
trout will not be easy, and there is no assurance that it is even possible given the many
management problems that cannot be changed, and because surviving bull trout populations
are small and isolated. However, Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks personnel
certainly expressed a high degree of confidence concerning the restoration effort and are
dedicated to restoring bull trout. The level of dedication is evidenced by the hiring of a bull
trout coordinator whose job is to expedite the restoration effort.
Following the FWS warranted but precluded ruling, Idaho Game and Fish made an early effort
to develop a bull trout restoration plan, but this effort did not include public or political input
(Stephen Duke, pers. commun.). Momentum for this restoration plan was lost with a change
of administration, but just recently the Governor of Idaho has committed the state to work on
bull trout conservation in a manner similar to Montana (Bill Horton, pers. commun.).
Idaho's governor has appointed a ten-member steering committee to make recommendations
for bull trout restoration. The steering committee is largely made up of agency personnel and
industry representatives, and contains few biologists with bull trout experience. A scientific
subcommittee advising the steering committee also lacks practical field experience with the
bull trout (Karen Pratt, pers. commun.).
The steering committee made recommendations to the governor's office, which in turn has
drafted a bull trout restoration plan that is now out for public comment (John McCarthy, pers.
commun.). This plan was prepared, however, without a comprehensive statewide review of
the status of the bull trout in Idaho.
Idaho restricted the harvest of bull trout in 1994 and will close all waters to bull trout harvest
on 1 January 1996. Should the bull trout become a federally listed species, closure of
approximately 3/4 of the water in Idaho to fishing may be a possibility (Bill Horton, pers.
commun.) An intermediate step would be to close known bull trout spawning areas to fishing.
Idaho also has a screening program on irrigation water intakes. This program has been in
place for about 30 years, and of the 700+ water diversions on the Snake River approximately
400 have screening devices installed. This screening was originally required to protect
salmon fisheries, and the Idaho Game and Fish Department is required to inspect the
Oregon and Washington are working on bull trout conservation too, but their efforts are less
than those of Montana and Idaho. In general their effort is directed at preventing federal listing
of the species and not necessarily on species restoration (Stephen Duke pers. commun.).
Although these states have concentrated their resources and management effort on salmon
they have restricted the legal harvest of bull trout. Washington Department of Fish and
Wildlife prepared a status report on bull trout in 1992 and subsequently substantially reduced
the legal harvest of bull trout on a statewide basis. The bull trout is listed as a declining
species in Washington.
Oregon also prepared a bull trout status report in 1992 (Ratliff and Howell 1992) and has
either closed waters to bull tout fishing or limited the daily catch to a single fish. A cooperative
effort by state, federal, and private agencies has been remarkably successful at restoring the
bull trout in the Metolius River and Lake Billy Chinook. In 1986, biologists were able to find
only 27 redds (spawning nests) in this aquatic system. After surveys of habitat conditions and
efforts to protect habitat and regulate fishing, the number of redds increased to more than 300
in 1994.
The bull trout has been extirpated in California and the state lists it as an endangered
species. California has made one attempt to reintroduce the bull trout to the McCloud River
but an initial evaluation of this reintroduction suggest that it has been unsuccessful. The
isolated population of bull trout on Nevada's Jarbridge River may number 50 adults and is
restricted almost entirely to the Jarbridge Wilderness Area. This population faces a high risk
of extinction due to its isolation and small size.
The Forest Service has acknowledged that the existing forest plans for individual national
forests has been inadequate to provide the habitat protection required by bull trout to assure
long-term population persistence. When designing forest projects in the past, the defining
criteria has been a minimum standard for bull trout habitat protection. The fallacy of managing
for minimums has become patently obvious with the bull trout. Minimum standards were not
sufficient to assure long-term population persistence.
To correct this management problem, the Forest Service developed a document entitled
Inland Native Fish Strategies for the Columbia River basin. This document was signed on 28
July 1995 and the record of decision was issued a month latter. The purpose of this document
is to provide interim habitat protection for the bull trout while the Columbia River Basin EIS is
written and while each national forest works on updated forest plans. This document
recognizes the riparian zone as a unique habitat requiring special management. It considers
the habitat needs of fishes and the paradigm has shifted from minimum standards to limiting
management actions that will help bull trout.
There is a memorandum of understanding that salvage logging will follow recommendations
of Inland Native Fish Strategies (Rick Stowl, pers. commun.). A major feature of Inland Native
Fish Strategies is moratorium on logging in buffer strips along riparian zones until a fisheries
evaluation of the stream is completed or a Forest Service fisheries biologist says no
evaluation is needed.
As a Category 1 species, the FWS is not directly involved with bull trout restoration. They
have provided technical assistance to the states but have not provided any significant
financial contributions to the state's restoration efforts. act Section 6 money does not become
available for species recovery until a species is officially listed as threatened or endangered.
Generally, states maintain that Section 6 money is inadequate for significant work on species
In recent years, considerable money has been dedicated to Columbia basin salmon recovery.
Although this money is not going to bull trout restoration work, bull trout will benefit from this
effort because they are dependent upon the same aquatic systems as salmon. If land and
water management are changed to favor salmon, it will also benefit bull trout. In addition
Young salmon may have been a major source of prey for adult bull trout and until salmon are
restored to significant numbers bull trout will also occur in low densities (Stephen Duke and
Bill Horton, pers. commun.).
                                    The Bottom Line
One variation of Murphy's Law states that "If you mess around with a thing long enough,
eventually you will break it." Nicholas Leeson, Robert Citron, and many others playing the
derivatives game have learned the high price paid in dabbling with something they really
didn't understand. They took the risks, and they suffered the losses. Unfortunately, so did
many others. The bankruptcy of Barings left many people unemployed, and Orange County's
frozen assets affected thousands of people and influenced world markets from Wall Street to
Japan. And yet, every day, everywhere, millions of people are dabbling in something infinitely
more complex, and ultimately far more dangerous.
Habitat alteration, reduction, and loss are the derivatives of the biological world. Complex
models assist experts in determining how much wetland "value" can be lost, identifying the
critical habitat components necessary for species existence, how much importance this
animal or that plant has to its ecosystem, and how far water or air or land systems can be
tweaked without causing too much upheaval.
Government offices, universities, and corporate public relations departments are replete with
people who are convinced they know the answers, and can generate reams of printouts from
complicated mathematical models and statistical procedures to back them up. On the other
hand, local coffee shops and bars are replete with individuals who are also convinced they
know the answers. They have logged or farmed or mined or grazed this mountain or that
prairie for generations. Or at least for a generation. And they rely on the secure knowledge
that things have always worked out. At least so far.
Any effort to quantify a species' importance, either scientific or offhanded, is ultimately
dangerous because such a prediction must, by default, be based on some simplification of
real world complexities. Efforts to predict outcomes of ecosystem tampering are frightening
because their basic assumption is that ecosystem processes are either completely
understood or are unimportant.
This is not to say that such predictions are not useful, but it is to say that there is an inherent
risk in using predictions to ascertain the degree of damage a natural system can sustain. And
it is infinitely more dangerous to rely on such a process to conclude that any given species is
expendable. Without truly understanding the myriad interconnections comprising natural
systems, it is a fool's game to begin altering them to any great degree. As E.O. Wilson (1992)
so eloquently stated:
Every species is part of an ecosystem, an expert specialist of its kind, tested relentlessly as it
spreads its influence through the food web. To remove it is to entrain changes in other
species raising the populations of some, reducing or even extinguishing others, risking a
downward spiral of the larger assemblage.
And while the experts debate of the complexities and inner functioning of the various systems,
it is in many ways analogous to discussing the intricacies of the fuel system on an automobile
without really understanding the cooling system or electrical system. If one system fails, the
car won't run.
With the bull trout, it is just one part of a much larger system. For the past century this system
has been subjected to a myriad of impacts from minor events that affect a small section of a
small tributary to major projects such as the Grand Coulee, the Dalles, Bonneville, and
McNary dams which cause major impacts over extended areas. As a result of the
accumulation of these impacts bull trout populations are fragmented, isolated and small.
Among some conservation management agency personnel there is optimism that bull trout
can be managed at their current level or even restored in terms of numbers and distribution
but there are others who are less optimistic.
The challenge of maintaining just the present bull trout populations with the current level of
impacts is formidable but impacts to this system are dynamic and will likely change if not
cumulatively increase during the next century. The challenge of maintaining wild bull trout is
compounded by their already small population size. Even under optimal conditions,
maintaining small isolated populations for a century or more can be difficult at best.
It remains to be seen if state and federal conservation agencies have the resolve and political
support to adequately organize and execute plans for bull trout recovery. The cost of
implementing these plans both in terms of the financial outlay and its perceived impact on the
regional human economy will undoubtedly be weighed against the benefits of recovering bull
To dabble daily in determining how much worth an organism has without really understanding
the overall system in which the organism lives is to risk a complete system failure. And that is
the danger. Anyone engaged in habitat destruction, alteration, or reduction is gambling that
there will be no impact. They are certain that no harm will come of it, that they know what they
are doing. Just like Nicholas Leeson or Robert Citron. But what if, just like Nicholas Leeson or
Robert Citron, they too are wrong?
Whether economic incentives provide impetus for salvation of the bull trout or not, indeed,
whether economic analysis ever comes to incorporate the values of a functioning environment
at all, is really not the critical issue. The critical issue with the bull trout, as with all species
endangered or otherwise, really lies in society learning that the basic precept is not "What is
the cost to save them?" but rather, "What is the cost to sacrifice them?"

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Brian Sandborn, U.S. Forest Service, Deerlodge National Forest, Fisheries Biologist
Chris Hunter, Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, Fisheries Biologist
Shelly Spalding, Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, Fisheries Biologist
Rick Stowl, U.S. Forest Service, Region 1 Office, Fisheries Biologist
Stephen Duke, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Boise Office, Fisheries Biologist
Bill Horton, Idaho Game and Fish Department, Fisheries Biologist

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