FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Gordon Helm
The National Marine Fisheries Service is proposing to list a Northern California steelhead trout population as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, the Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced today. The action is a reconsideration of NOAA Fisheries' 1998 decision not to list, which was based in part on a State of California conservation effort designed to protect the population.
"The state, particularly the Fish and Game Commission, has made great efforts to implement the conservation plan for steelhead, but has been unable to implement critical elements of steelhead habitat protection on forest lands," said Rod McInnis, acting southwest regional administrator. "Without the protection we anticipated from the changes in forest practices, we had to reconsider our earlier decision to not list this steelhead population. However, we remain committed to protecting and restoring steelhead and other salmon in the most efficient, and least disruptive way possible, and we expect to continue working with the state and with public and private landowners to restore and protect steelhead habitat."
The California Board of Forestry was unable to finalize its efforts to modify a series of Forest Practice Rules to meet steelhead protection requirements. In addition, the state fell behind in developing a series of rule changes designed to meet federal steelhead conservation requirements under which the decision not to list had been made. Since adequate changes to the rules were not made in a timely manner, federal officials were compelled to reconsider their 1998 decision, and now seek public comment on a listing proposal.
In March 1998, NOAA fisheries believed that the Northern California steelhead, a distinct population segment - called an Evolutionarily Significant Unit or ESU - did not warrant listing as a threatened species, because it determined at that time that the state's conservation efforts would provide adequate protections. This ESU includes steelhead from Redwood Creek in Humboldt County to and including steelhead in the Gualala River in Mendocino County. Under the Endangered Species Act, a threatened species is likely to become endangered in the near future; an endangered species is likely to become extinct.
The area affected by the proposed listing is already covered under other ESA listings. Listed coho salmon and chinook salmon ESUs already occur within the range of this steelhead ESU, as does critical habitat for coho salmon. Private landowners, federal agencies and others affected by the listing have in many instances already begun to modify their activities to reduce impacts to salmon.
The public can submit their views on this proposal during a 60-day comment period. Comments should be sent to Craig Wingert, 501 West Ocean Blvd., Room 4200, Long Beach, Calif. 90802. NOAA Fisheries plans to issue a final listing determination by May 31, 2000.