Idaho Federal judge orders ESA review for Big Lost River whitefish

Judge Lodge mandates a “status review” for rare whitefish. Major impacts expected if fish is listed-

Judge orders protection review for Idaho fish. By Todd Dvorak. Associated Press Writer.
Judge rules in favor of whitefish. By Jason Kauffman. Idaho Mountain Express.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service told to reconsider ESA listing for Mackay area fish

This could be very good news for the sorry Big Lost River and the abusive grazing practices permitted by the Lost River Ranger District of the Salmon-Challis National Forest.

Judge Edward Lodge generally is not very favorable to lawsuits brought by conservation groups.

Photo of the generally dewatered bed of the Big Lost River.

Photo of Copper Basin. Overgrazed mountain valley. This valley could be Lamar Valley of Idaho, but livestock grazing dominates everything else. It is the headwaters of the East Fork of the Big Lost River.

Photo of the East Fork of the Big Lost River in Copper Basin

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Those few undegraded parts of the Big Lost River are popular with trout anglers. Restoration to increase the Big Lost whitefish would have enormous benefits for trout and the local economy.


  1. Larry Thorngren Avatar

    My parents worked at the INEL and we moved to the Lost River Valley in 1955. As a teenager, I used to fish the Big Lost River a couple of times a week and catch trout and whitefish in good numbers. In the 1960s the farmers started putting in numerous wells throughout the valley and running the water into canals out to the south of Arco and in doing so, dropped underground water levels so low that the springs that used to run all year from Leslie to below Arco completely dried up. Many of these were illegal (no permits)wells and should have never been approved later by the Idaho Department of Water Resources. The river only runs past Arco at flood stage today. The stands of cottonwoods that were on both sides of the river along the entire valley have long since died from lack of water. I get angry every time I go home to visit relatives in the Lost River Valley.
    The places where I used to catch my limit of trout (15 in those days) are now dry stretches of sand and rock.
    Thank You Western Watersheds for filing this lawsuit. We need a minimum flow of water year round in The Big Lost River.
    I would like my grandson to be able to fish and swim in the river as I did as a boy.

  2. Philip Avatar

    Because the education system is so wretched in that part of the world, it is hard to find a cattleman who has any proper training in range science or animal husbandry. Grazing and habitat can co-exist; in fact, proper grazing is an essential component of habitat management. It is just so frustrating to deal with a goodhearted mutt who just can’t see why you are keeping his beasts off all that feed. Support your local Extension Service experts, who are trying to educate receptive operators, and keep a heavy 2X4 to use on the intransigent.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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Ralph Maughan