LAS VEGAS -- U.S. Rep. Jim Gibbons has asked the federal government to stop listing a trout population in northeast Nevada as a threatened species.
The Republican congressman called the emergency listing of the Jarbidge bull trout as threatened in 1998 "unwarranted," and said the Endangered Species Act calls for immediately helping threatened species.
In a statement issued after a Thursday meeting with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Steven Williams in Washington, D.C., Gibbons said the Fish and Wildlife Service doesn't plan to have a recovery plan in place until 2004.
"Given the weak case for listing the bull trout in the first place, I do not see what its continued listing will accomplish," he said.
Scientists and politicians disagree whether the bull trout in the Jarbidge River in Elko County is threatened, and whether man or nature is to blame.
Gibbons has accused the Fish and Wildlife Service of listing the fish as threatened solely to block Elko County from rebuilding a U.S. Forest Service road that washed out along the river during a 1995 flood.
Critics of Endangered Species Act protection say the Jarbidge bull trout descends from a glacial period that ended several thousand years ago, and is dependent on cold water that is naturally warming.
Nevada state Assemblyman John Carpenter, R-Elko, has called extinction a natural process, not something caused by a human threat.
Protection advocates say reducing streamside erosion, improving habitat and protecting trees that shade waters could help the fish flourish.
Dennis Murphy, a research biologist at the University of Nevada, Reno, said the susceptibility of the fish to inevitable future climate changes make it worthy of protection.
Gibbons said Congress' intent for listing species as threatened was "to error on the side of the species when information was lacking."
The House Resources Committee held a July 27 hearing in Elko to collect testimony about the issue.
Exact numbers are not known, but the government estimates that there are perhaps 1,000 adult bull trout -- half the number the American Fisheries Society believes are necessary to keep a species alive.