NATIONAL NEWS

US judge blocks water pipeline in Montana that was meant to boost rare fish

Aug 3, 2023, 9:59 AM

FILE - This photo provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service shows an Arctic grayling captured ...

FILE - This photo provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service shows an Arctic grayling captured in a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service fish trap at Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge near Lima, Montana. A U.S. judge has blocked a proposed water pipeline through a wilderness area in southwest Montana that was intended to help the rare fish species, which has declined from 1,131 fish in Red Rock Creek in 2015 to 73 last year. (Jim Mogen/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service via AP, file)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(Jim Mogen/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service via AP, file)

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A U.S. judge blocked a proposed water pipeline through a wilderness area in southwest Montana that was intended to help a rare fish species that’s in sharp decline due to habitat loss, warming temperatures and other pressures.

The mile-long pipeline was intended to move oxygenated water that’s beneficial for fish from a creek to a lake in the Red Rock Lakes Wilderness — winter home for one of the last few populations of Arctic grayling in the Lower 48 states. The fish are prized by many anglers and known for their sail-like dorsal fins.

U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy said in a Wednesday ruling that environmentalists who sued to stop the pipeline raised valid concerns that its construction would disturb the wilderness area, where motor vehicles, roads or structures are largely prohibited under federal law.

The number of grayling in Montana’s Centennial Valley, which includes the Red Rock Lakes area, plummeted from 1,131 fish in 2015 to 73 fish last year. Federal wildlife officials in 2020 decided protections for Montana grayling were not needed because of ongoing conservation efforts.

Among those efforts was the pipeline project that was scheduled to begin construction as soon as this month. By piping in creek water — which becomes more oxygenated as it splashes downstream — officials hoped to offset a drop in oxygen in the lake, caused when it freezes over and aquatic plants die, sucking oxygen from the water as they decompose.

Molloy said other attempts to increase oxygen levels for grayling were unsuccessful. Those have included equipment to stir lake water so it would not fully freeze.

“The record indicates that the agency is experimenting with a new management approach that it thinks will work, but is likely not a final solution,” Molloy wrote. He added that even if it might help in the short term, the plaintiffs had “raised a serious question” about whether the pipeline complied with the Wilderness Act.

“The mere possibility that the proposed action may aid in Arctic grayling conservation is not enough to create necessity,” he said.

Representatives of the groups that sued over the pipeline — Wilderness Watch, Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Gallatin Wildlife Association, and Yellowstone to Uintas Connection — have pushed the wildlife service to instead address human impacts to grayling. Those include fishing and depleted flows in rivers where the fish spawn because of water withdrawals by farmers.

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service chose a course of action it knew would violate the Wilderness Act, rather than address the root causes of grayling decline,” Wilderness Watch Executive Director George Nickas said in a statement.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service representatives did not immediately respond to questions about the ruling.

A separate lawsuit from a different group of environmentalists is trying to force the federal agency to protect the species throughout the Upper Missouri River basin of Montana under the Endangered Species Act. Grayling also live parts of Canada and Alaska, where populations are considered healthy.

Wildlife advocates petitioned federal officials to protect Arctic grayling in 1991. Officials determined in 1994 and again in 2010 that protections were needed, but they were never imposed because other species were given a higher priority.

National News

FILE - Balloons are hoisted to the ceiling in the Forum ahead of the 2024 Republican National Conve...

Associated Press

When does a presumptive nominee become a nominee? Here’s how Donald Trump will make it official

WASHINGTON (AP) — Monday 12:01 AM Nearly 2,500 delegates are gathering in Milwaukee this week for a roll call vote to select a the Republican presidential nominee, formally ending the presidential primary. It will be a moment lacking in suspense: Former President Donald Trump has already been the presumptive nominee for months, having clinched a […]

44 minutes ago

Members of the Coalition to March on the RNC speak during a news conference ahead of the 2024 Repub...

Associated Press

GOP convention protests are on despite shooting at Trump rally

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Activists gathering in Milwaukee for the start of the Republican National Convention say the assassination attempt on former President Donald Trump won’t affect their long-standing plans to demonstrate outside the convention site this week. A diverse range of organizations and activists is expected outside the downtown Fiserv Forum. The largest expected demonstration […]

44 minutes ago

FILE - Actor Clint Eastwood speaks to an empty chair while addressing delegates during the Republic...

Associated Press

Floor fights, boos and a too-long kiss. How the dramatic and the bizarre define convention history

WASHINGTON (AP) — In 1948, the Republican and Democratic parties did something unthinkable in today’s climate of ferocious political animosity: They not only held their national conventions in the same city, but shared some of the props. Both gathered in Philadelphia, largely because its Municipal Auditorium had already been fitted with the wiring needed for […]

48 minutes ago

FILE - Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally, ...

Associated Press

The RNC’s first day will still focus on the economy. Here’s what to know about Trump’s plans

WASHINGTON (AP) — Donald Trump goes into the Republican National Convention with bold promises about the U.S. economy, but he has sketched out notably few details about how his plans would actually work. The convention’s first day is still expected to focus on the economy even after Saturday’s shooting at a Trump rally in Pennsylvania […]

49 minutes ago

FILE - Wayne LaPierre arrives at court, Jan. 24, 2024, in New York. The second phase of the civil t...

Associated Press

Second phase of NRA civil trial over nonprofit’s spending set to open in NYC

NEW YORK (AP) — The second phase of the civil trial against the National Rifle Association and its top executives is set to begin Monday in Manhattan, with New York Attorney General Letitia James seeking an independent monitor to oversee the powerful gun rights group. The Democrat also is seeking to ban Wayne LaPierre, the […]

56 minutes ago

Associated Press

Stock market today: Asian shares are mixed as China reports its economy grew 4.7% in last quarter

Asian shares began the week trading mixed as China reported that its economy expanded at a slower-than-forecast 4.7% annual pace in the last quarter. Markets seemed to take in stride a shooting at a rally for former President Donald Trumpin Butler, Pennsylvania that is being investigated as an attempted assassination of the presumptive Republican nominee. […]

58 minutes ago

US judge blocks water pipeline in Montana that was meant to boost rare fish