Groups sue feds over lack of steelhead recovery plan

SEATTLE — Conservation groups are suing the federal government over what they describe as foot-dragging when it comes to recovering wild Puget Sound steelhead.

In the lawsuit, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Seattle, Duvall-based Wild Fish Conservancy and other organizations accuse the National Marine Fisheries Service of failing to come up with a plan to recover the seagoing rainbow trout, which were listed as threatened in 2007.

The complaint says the agency has delayed the recovery plan for eight years and doesn’t expect to have one until 2019. The groups say that without a plan, projects intended to improve steelhead habitat aren’t getting funded.

Steelhead populations in the region have declined by about 97 percent since 1900.

The fisheries service says it’s working on it. Spokesman Michael Milstein says the recovery plan has been delayed while the agency invests significant time in collecting more scientific information about steelhead, which have been lesser-known than other salmon species. A team has developed a scientific foundation for the recovery plan.

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