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Collaborative conservation in Arizona’s White Mountains leads to delisting recommendation for Apache trout

US Fish and Wildlife Service completes five-year review with delisting recommendation for Arizona state fish

Thanks to half a century of collaborative conservation efforts between tribal, state, federal and non-governmental organizations, Apache trout have a brighter, more sustainable future. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) today announced the completion of a five-year status review that recommends the species be removed from the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

The next step by the Service will be to publish a proposed rule in the Federal Register to delist Apache trout. The proposed rule, which is expected to be published by the end of 2022, will include a 60-day public comment period seeking comments from state, federal, tribal and other government agencies, the scientific community, industry or any other interested parties regarding the proposal. radiation.

“We would like to thank our partners for their commitment and collaborative efforts alongside the Service towards the recovery of Apache trout,” said Amy Lueders, Regional Director of the Service. “We are delighted to say that the recovery actions of the White Mountain Apache Tribe and other partners have led to the recommendation to remove the species from the ESA.”

Conservation actions implemented, such as the removal of non-native trout, the construction of fish barriers, and the reintroduction of Apache trout, have made recovery possible and will continue to aid conservation. The Service is committed to continuing the conservation of Apache trout, whether the fish is downgraded or not.

The Service, along with White Mountain Apache Tribe, Arizona Game and Fish Department, USDA Forest Service, and Trout Unlimited share responsibilities under a 2021 Apache Trout Cooperative Management Plan. This plan outlines goals for achieving the recovery and delisting of Apache trout and, in the event of delisting, to maintain a recovered status, while providing sport fishing opportunities.

Apache trout are the state fish of Arizona and are native exclusively to streams around the White Mountains in the eastern part of the state. It was originally considered the same species as the Gila trout, which was listed under the Endangered Species Preservation Act in 1967. The Apache trout was first described as a unique species distinct from the Gila trout in 1972. A year later it was granted protection under the Endangered Species Preservation Act. Species Act of 1973, and it was later downgraded to threatened in 1975.

This five-year review was informed by a 2021 Species Status Assessment (SSA), which includes the best available scientific information. The assessment assessed the species’ current needs, conditions and threats, in addition to modeling future scenarios. It also involved input from scientific experts, including independent peer review and review by federal and state partners. More information on the five-year status reviews can be found on our website.

The first recovery plan for Apache trout was developed in 1979, a revised plan was developed in 1983, and a second revision was completed in 2009. One of the primary goals of the recovery plan is to reach 30 populations genetically pure Apache trout, with sufficient habitat to support self-sustaining populations. SSA developed by biologists from the White Mountain Apache Tribe, Arizona Game and Fish Department, USDA Forest Service, Trout Unlimited and US Fish and Wildlife Service confirms goal of 30 genetically pure, self-sustaining populations has been achieved .

A major threat to Apache trout populations has been the introduction of non-native trout. The gene pool was threatened by hybridization with non-native rainbow and cutthroat trout. Additionally, non-native brook trout and brook trout pose threats due to competition and predation. Much of the conservation work has involved removing these introduced trout from Apache trout habitat and constructing barriers to block other non-native introductions. Additionally, with more than $2 million from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act’s National Fish Passage Program, service partners are working to remove some barriers that are no longer needed through the removal of unsightly trout. native. This will open up 52 miles of Apache trout habitat streams for new populations.

The five-year review and additional information on Apache trout can be found on the OSCE species page. (Direct link.)

The Service remains interested in information regarding the status and conservation of Apache trout and any potential threats to them. Please email information to [email protected]