By JEFF BARNARD - AP Environmental Writer
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has agreed to take a new look at how much habitat needs to be protected for the bull trout - in the latest Obama administration rollback of Bush administration reductions in the Endangered Species Act protections for fish and wildlife.
Based on the decision, a federal judge on Wednesday dismissed a lawsuit brought by environmental groups challenging cuts to critical habitat designation for the threatened fish. Bull trout numbers have dwindled due to logging, mining, grazing and dams.
Judge Robert Jones in Portland, Ore., cited an inspector general's report that the bull trout was one of 13 species whose protection was jeopardized by influence exerted by Bush administration appointee Julie MacDonald in the Department of Interior.
The ruling noted that the inspector general's report had found "illogical" policy choices under MacDonald, and that many Fish and Wildlife staff believed that as a result the bull trout critical habitat rule was not based on science.
"I hope this brings the end of corruption of the critical habitat process under Julie MacDonald, and I hope the Obama administration will do it based on science instead of politics," said Michael Garrity of Alliance for the Wild Rockies, a plaintiff in the case.
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