RENO " The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has rejected a petition to end federal protection for the Lahontan cutthroat trout " the Nevada state fish which has been listed under the Endangered Species Act for nearly four decades.
A group called Dynamic Action on Wells Group, Inc., had sought to declassify the fish as threatened, claiming among other things in a December 2006 petition that removing the fish from federal oversight was warranted because of habitat improvements in the Pyramid Lake-Truckee River Basin.
But Bob Williams, field supervisor for the service in Reno, said while efforts are being made to restore the native fish, it still faces many challenges to its existence across its habitat range.
"We did not find that the petition presented substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that removing Lahontan cutthroat trout from the list may be warranted," Williams said.
Clifford Thompson, a Yerington resident and a member of the group originally formed to protect domestic water wells, characterized the fuss over Lahontan cutthroat a "farce."
The "fish is a fake fish to start with," he said when reached by phone Wednesday. "They've been extinct for how many thousands of years."
Thompson, who described himself as a "student of the constitution," argued that the Lahontan trout found in the Walker River Basin were bred in fisheries and therefore are not the same genetically as the historic species and are undeserving of protection.
"Now they want to take our water from agriculture to save a damn fish," he said. "This is a big farce to get control over the water."
Lahontan cutthroat are native to the Lahonton Basin region of northern Nevada, eastern California and southern Oregon.
Wildlife experts say the fish " the only trout native to Nevada " can grow up to 40 pounds and once inhabited 11 lakes and more than 3,600 miles of streams throughout its historic range.
Today, it is found in five lakes within its historic range " Pyramid, Walker, Fallen Leaf, Independence and Summit " and about 125 streams within the Lahontan Basin.
Williams said the agency is in the midst of a five-year review of the species and will consider any new data on the status of it recovery.
Biologists say the biggest threats come from water diversions, introduction of non-native fish species, and habitat fragmentation.