FWS says coaster brook trout FWS declines to list coaster brook trout
74 Fed. Reg. 23388 / Vol. 74, No. 95 / Tuesday, May 19, 2009
DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR / Fish and Wildlife Service / 50 CFR Part 17 / Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; 12-Month Finding on a Petition To List the Coaster Brook Trout
ACTION: Notice of 12-month petition finding.
SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce a 12-month finding on a petition to list the coaster brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) as endangered under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). The petition also asked that critical habitat be designated for the species. After review of all available scientific and commercial information, we find that the coaster brook trout is not a listable entity under the Act, and therefore, listing is not warranted. We ask the public to continue to submit to us any new information that becomes available concerning the taxonomy, biology, ecology, and status of coaster brook trout and to support cooperative conservation of coaster brook trout within its historical range in the Great Lakes.
EXCERPT: DPS Conclusion-Upper Great Lakes All Brook Trout Population Segment. On the basis of the best available information, we conclude that the all-brook-trout population segment in the Upper Great Lakes is discrete due to marked separation as a consequence of physical, ecological, physiological, or behavioral factors according to the 1996 DPS Policy. However, on the basis of an evaluation of brook trout in the Great Lakes relative to the four significance elements of the 1996 DPS Policy, we conclude that this discrete population segment is not significant to the taxon to which it belongs, and therefore, does not qualify as a DPS under 1996 policy. As such, we find that population of brook trout in the Great Lakes basin is not a listable entity under the Act... We find that, based on the genetic information currently available, the brook trout in the upper Great Lakes, including all life forms, do not differ markedly from other populations of the species in their genetic characteristics (such as exhibiting unique alleles or a proportion of genetic variability beyond the norm of distribution) such that they should be considered biologically or ecologically significant based simply on genetic characteristics. They do not show any more genetic distinctiveness in comparison to the remainder of the taxon than other populations demonstrate. With the additional consideration that the authority to list DPSs be used ''sparingly,'' we conclude that this population segment of brook trout does not meet the significance element of this factor... Although we find that population segments analyzed above are not listable entities, we found enough information concerning the diversity, habitats, population structure, threats, and trends of the native brook trout in its entire range to initiate a range-wide assessment that will enable us to better understand the status of the native brook trout across the range of species. Completing a range-wide assessment will allow us to better evaluate if any population would meet the elements of the DPS policy or constitute an SPR of the taxon. We will also continue to assess the status of and threats to both the upper Great Lakes and Salmon Trout River/South Shore Lake Superior populations of the coaster brook trout.
The brook trout exhibits remarkable phenotypic plasticity across its natural range. This plasticity allows it to thrive in a variety of environments, from cold subarctic regions, through temperate zones and in southern refugia in eastern North America. Although primarily a stream-dwelling species, brook trout also occupy inland lakes and coastal waters. The brook trout’s dispersal subsequent to receding glaciation, and separation into isolated breeding stocks in diverse habitats subject to an array of natural and man-made influences have all contributed to this variability. Indeed, the historical range of native brook trout extends along much of the United States, including portions of Iowa, Illinois, Ohio, Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin, New York, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Georgia. The fish is also found thoughout Canada, as demonstrated by the photo above from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources.
KEITHINKING: The FWS significance analysis includes a four-part evaluation, applied to each of the the discrete populations of brook trout considered in this Federal Register Notice. Specifically, FWS considered: (1) Significance Evidence of the Persistence of the Discrete Population Segment in an Ecological Setting That Is Unique for the Taxon; (2) Evidence That Loss of the Population Segment Would Result in a Significant Gap in the Range of the Taxon; (3) Evidence That the Population Segment Represents the Only Surviving Natural Occurrence of a Taxon That May Be More Abundant Elsewhere as an Introduced Population Outside Its Historical Range; (4) Evidence That the Discrete Population Segment Differs Markedly in Its Genetic Characteristics From Other Populations of the Species. In addition, FWS undertakes a separate analysis of whether a species is ''in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range.'' The agency decisions regarding "significance" necessitate a substantial degree of judgment, which in turn frequently leads to controversy. However, when the judgment call is tied to analysis of genetic factors, it can prove difficult for a federal judge to discern who is right or wrong, and thus, the doctrine of judicial deference can prove especially "significant" in these circumstances.