The non-native carp's days are numbered in Utah Lake, but other species that the state wants to foster, including the sage grouse, are on the rebound, according to the Department of Natural Resources.

Reed Harris, director of the department's recovery programs, gave an update to Utah lawmakers in a committee meeting Wednesday. He told them about eradication projects and how the Endangered Species Mitigation Fund is being used in Utah. For the 2008 fiscal year, Utah spent more than $3 million from the fund for initiatives such as fish-recovery programs and conservation projects.

The main purpose of the fund, Harris noted, is to keep species from being federally listed as an endangered species. He said no new animal species in Utah have been listed as endangered since 2000, and only two plant species in Washington County have been listed in that time. But environmental and conservation groups have filed dozens of petitions to federally list different species, and decisions on those petitions are pending.

Harris said that during the past year, 180 of 270 projects have been completed just to help the sage grouse. He predicted that when U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials review what's happening with sage grouse in Utah, it won't be listed as endangered.

But Harris wants 5 million pounds of non-native carp removed from Utah Lake by the end of this year. His division had someone on the line to remove the fish for free, but Harris said that person isn't currently meeting certain benchmarks. Once the non-native species is reduced to 25 percent of its current population, sport fishing and vegetation would improve in Utah Lake, Harris said.

He was also critical of the environmental community's efforts that plunge his division back into fights over whether to list certain species, even after U.S. Fish and Wildlife has decided that conditions don't warrant a federal endangered designation. The most recent example, Harris said, was the decision not to list the Bonneville cutthroat. That kind of interference, he noted, can impact how Utah goes about tapping into its natural resources.


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