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Feds Propose Expanded Habitat For NW Bull Trout

The federal government Wednesday has proposed a massive habitat expansion for the Northwest's endangered bull trout.  The plan would nearly quintuple the protected area in Washington and four other states.

It would add more than 19,000 miles of streams and nearly 400,000 acres of lakes and reservoirs as critical habitat for the fish.

Joan Jewett is with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife's office in Portland.  She says the change would require federal agencies to consult about any potential developments in the expanded habitat area.

Joan Jewett: "So for example if it was a proposed timer sale on forest service land, the forest service would have to consult with us on whether the project might have any effects on, in this case, bull trout. One, whether it would jeopardize the continued existence of the species. And two, whether it would have an adverse modification of the critical habitat."

Jewett says Fish & Wildlife recommended a similar expansion about 6 years ago. But in 2005, the Bush Administration designated the current, much smaller area.

Later, an inspector general's report found that a Bush Administration appointee had inappropriately interfered with decisions about endangered species, including the bull trout.

Fish and Wildlife's latest proposal would reverse that Bush era policy.

The agency will hold several public hearings on the habitat proposal.

They're scheduled throughout February in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Nevada.

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