Deschutes basin conservation plan under public scrutiny

Bull trout are threatened by hydropower dams, habitat loss, hatcheries and fish harvesting.(U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service)

A Culver man was sentenced in a federal court on Monday for the flagrant and repeated poaching of protected bull trout.

Thomas Campbell, 29, had repeatedly poached the trout from the Metolius River, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Oregon.

Bull trout are one of several species of fish that have experienced population declines in the Deschutes Basin, due to dam building, overfishing and other threats to their habitat. Conservationists and biologists have had mild success in increasing their numbers through habitat restoration projects, but the fish remain a threatened species.

Campbell was sentenced to five years of federal probation and banned from angling or hunting anywhere in the United States as a condition of probation. Campbell is also ordered to pay a $6,000 fine and $649.95 in restitution to the Oregon State Police for the damage he caused to a trail camera designed to catch poachers. He must also perform 300 hours of community service with a nonprofit that focuses on conservation or has a collaborative relationship with the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs.

In 2017 and 2018 Campbell poached bull trout from the Metolius on U.S. Forest Service land and while trespassing on the Eyerly Property, which is held in trust by the United States for the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs.

Fishing for bull trout on the Metolius is legal but requires catch-and-release. Instead of releasing the fish, Campbell kept and grossly mishandled bull trout, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office .

Campbell boasted about his bull trout catches on social media, where he posted photos of the fish. Followers repeatedly warned him to stop, according to the statement.

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