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Idaho Conservation Group Backs Out Of Possible Steelhead Suit

Andrew Bonamici

Idaho Rivers United, a member of the consortium of organizations threatening to sue the state over steelhead season, is backing away from the possible litigation.

Earlier this fall, the Idaho Fish and Game Commission voted to curtail steelhead season. They made that decision in light of being threatened with a lawsuit by a panoply of conservation groups. The organizations say steelhead, which are federally protected, are so threatened that even catch and release fishing would endanger the population.

The groups sent a notice of intent to sue to the state citing Idaho’s incidental take permit lapsing in 2010. Rather than fight a costly legal battle, the Fish and Game Commission voted to shut down the entire season.

Soon after the state received the threat of a lawsuit, the agency that handles incidental take permits – the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Organization – released a draft permitting plan that could bring Idaho back into compliance with the law.

“For my organization, the real focus is this plan. Now that we have a plan, there’s no reason to be threatening to sue Idaho,” says Kevin Lewis, the executive director of Idaho Rivers United.

Once a comment period wraps up later this month, NOAA will issue a biological opinion.

“[It’s] basically the rationale that says this plan is not going to jeopardize the species,” Lewis says. “Then the plan is approved and everything’s fine.”

While Idaho Rivers United pulls out of the suit, there’s no indication other organizations are backing down.

For more local news, follow the KBSX newsroom on Twitter @KBSX915

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