NOAA 99-R117
Contact: Brian Gorman


Early next spring, a population of cutthroat trout in southwestern Washington and northwestern Oregon could be added to the federal endangered species list and another population—Oregon's Umpqua River cutthroat—could be removed from the list, under a proposal announced today by the National Marine Fisheries Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Fisheries Service said it was proposing to add a population of coastal cutthroat trout to the "threatened" list of salmon protected under the Endangered Species Act. This population extends from the vicinity of Grays Harbor, Wash., and the drainage of the Chehalis River in the north, south to the mouth of the Columbia River and east to the Dalles Dam. The proposed area includes metropolitan Portland south to Willamette Falls.

Under the federal species-protection law, a species can be listed as threatened, meaning it is likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future, or as endangered, meaning that it is at risk of becoming extinct. The "threatened" level of protection gives managers greater flexibility in implementing conservation programs for the species.

Biologists said a variety of factors, including habitat degradation, drought and adverse interactions with other species, are likely responsible for the cutthroat trout's decline.

Fisheries Service scientists group salmon and steelhead into evolutionarily significant units, or ESUs, based on a variety of scientific information, including their ecological, environmental and genetic attributes. As such, they are treated as distinct population segments, and there may be several ESUs for any single species of salmon or trout on the West Coast.

The Fish and Wildlife Service is joining the Fisheries Service in the proposal to list this population of cutthroat trout because the fish spend much or all of their lives in freshwater streams. The Fish and Wildlife Service is responsible for protecting
freshwater fish; the Fisheries Service is responsible for fish that spend all or part of their lives in marine waters.

In a related matter, the proposal to remove the Umpqua River cutthroat ESU, listed as an endangered species in 1996 under the federal Endangered Species Act, comes as a result of a comprehensive fisheries service scientific review of coastal cutthroat trout populations in California, Oregon and Washington.

"Our scientific information tells us," said William Stelle, head of the Fisheries Service's Northwest region in Seattle, "that although this population of cutthroat in the Umpqua River basin is not as healthy as we'd like, it's part of a larger and relatively healthier cutthroat trout ESU on the Oregon coast that doesn't warrant listing at this time."

Fisheries Service scientists said they will continue to evaluate the status of this larger ESU, which stretches from the mouth of the Columbia River south to Cape Blanco and as far east as Soda Springs Dam in the North Umpqua River. While the Fisheries Service concluded Oregon coastal cutthroat don't warrant listing at this time, the agency considers it a candidate for future listing and said it will reevaluate the fish's status within four years.

A final decision on both the proposal to remove Umpqua River cutthroat from the endangered species list and to add southwestern Washington/northwestern Oregon cutthroat to the list is expected a year from now, following additional research and comments from the public. Send comments to: Chief, Protected Resources Division, NMFS, Northwest Region, 525 NE Oregon Street, Suite 500, Portland, OR
97232-2737; or fax comments to the same office at (503) 230-5435.

A color map of the proposed and adjacent cutthroat ESUs is available from the Fisheries Service's Northwest Region's home page, at