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Conservation groups intend to sue over Arctic grayling protections

 Arctic grayling
Mark Conlin, USFWS
Arctic grayling

Conservation groups have filed a notice of their intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over the protection status of Montana’s Arctic grayling, the last population in the lower 48.

The Center for Biological Diversity, Western Watersheds Project and other groups, along with a resident of Butte, say they will sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to further protect the fish under the Endangered Species Act.

Arctic grayling are native to a big part of Montana’s Upper Missouri watershed. But increased temperatures and lower water flows have contributed to habitat loss that has confined the fish to a 200 mile stretch of the Big Hole River and a few small lakes.

The Fish and Wildlife Service initially recommended the grayling for protection in 1994 before reversing course in 2014, claiming voluntary conservation efforts along the Big Hole and other projects were enough to stabilize the grayling’s population.

Butte resident Pat Munday says those efforts haven’t done enough to protect the fish from the adverse effects of climate change and drought.

“So let’s try this. Let’s try the law, the Endangered Species Act, which is meant exactly for this type of situation,” Munday said.

With the intent to sue filed, the USFWS will have 60 days to respond before a lawsuit is brought in district court. The Fish & Wildlife Service did not immediately return MTPR’s requests for comment.

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