Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, September 25, 2019


Meg Townsend, (248) 310-3684,

Lawsuit Launched Over Trump Administration Failure to Protect Colorado Greenback Cutthroat Trout

Motorcycle Trail Could Wipe Out Key Population of Colorado’s State Fish

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.— The Center for Biological Diversity today filed a formal notice of its intent to sue the U.S. Forest Service for failing to protect Colorado’s state fish, the rare and threatened greenback cutthroat trout. The agency’s failure to protect the fish could hasten its extinction, a violation of the Endangered Species Act.

Specifically, the Center is challenging the Forest Service’s failure to ensure that motorcycle trail 667 in the Pike National Forest, known as “Captain Jack’s Trail,” is not jeopardizing the greenback.

As constructed, the motorcycle trail is likely to illegally hurt greenbacks and damage their habitat. When sediment from erosion and washouts enters Bear Creek, it could destroy the greenback’s last remaining spawning and rearing habitat.

“The Trump administration is shrugging off its duty to protect Colorado’s threatened and iconic state fish,” said Meg Townsend, a Center attorney. “If the Forest Service doesn’t act quickly to reroute this trail, we could lose one of the last two populations of these trout.”

The last true greenback populations exist only in two locations. One is Bear Creek, the only stream where greenbacks are found. The other location is Zimmerman Lake.

Unfortunately Bear Creek watershed is a destination for heavy motorcycle use. In the past Captain Jack’s Trail ran directly through Bear Creek, decimating habitat, disrupting spawning fish and possibly hurting juvenile and adult greenback cutthroat trout.

The Center filed a lawsuit in 2012 challenging the Forest Service’s failure to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to ensure motorized vehicle trails were not jeopardizing the greenback. As a result, it appeared the Forest Service would fix the problem by rerouting Captain Jack’s Trail out of Bear Creek.

But instead the agency moved the trail onto the steep north slope of Kineo Mountain, where erosion and sedimentation have the highest chance of hurting greenbacks and destroying their habitat.

“The Forest Service seemed to be on track to do the right thing, but then the agency abruptly routed the trail to directly hurt greenbacks,” Townsend added. “It’s absurd to run a motorcycle trail on a steep, erosion-prone slope above the last stream where greenbacks live. The Service should rethink this plan and protect these incredibly imperiled fish before it’s too late.”

The Center has notified the Forest that it is putting the greenback at risk and may bring legal action against the agency later this year.

Photos are available for media use.

Photo courtesy of EPA.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.6 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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