This article was published on: 01/29/13 2:35 PM
This month, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced that the designation of steelhead trout released above Round Butte Dam on the Deschutes River will be changed from endangered to experimental under the Endangered Species Act. The designation as experimental will occur for 12 years and when the experimental period ends in 2025, protective regulations that apply to the larger Middle Columbia steelhead population will also extend to this population.
The change in designation will allow irrigation districts and water users in Central Oregon more flexibility to develop a cooperative conservation plan.
“People who want to do good things for fish species will now be able to do so without going through the complexities of the Endangered Species Act consultation process,” said Amy Stuart of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. “It will support steelhead reintroduction in the Deschutes Basin by giving an incentive to water users to establish a Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) and implement habitat improvement projects for the HCP in a faster, simpler way.”
This new federal designation is encouraging news for our work at the Deschutes River Conservancy because it will allow water users and partners dedicated to reintroduction efforts to more easily work together for the mutual benefit of fish, farmers and cities.