Alleged steelhead poacher’s trial enters jury selection Monday

Luke Brugnara in front of a painting titled "Christ Carrying the

A jury trial will begin Monday for a San Francisco real estate
developer who is charged with damming Little Arthur Creek and
poaching a threatened species of steelhead trout in 2007.
A jury trial will begin Monday for a San Francisco real estate developer who is charged with damming Little Arthur Creek and poaching a threatened species of steelhead trout in 2007.

Luke Brugnara faces four counts of “taking” the trout and two counts of making a false statement in the course of an investigation after he was indicted by a federal grand jury in April 2008. He has pled not guilty to all charges.

This is the first federal criminal case in the country charging an individual and corporation with the poaching of steelhead by blocking an upstream habitat.

The federal government contends that Brugnara intentionally blocked the flow of Little Arthur Creek, an important watershed for steelhead, for at least three months between January and April 2007. Regulators say that the habitat above the dam is critical to the survival of the South-Central California Coast steelhead, which are found in Little Arthur Creek and are listed as threatened on the federal Endangered Species list.

The charges against Brugnara come as a result of an investigation by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the California Department of Fish and Game.

State and federal investigators said they found numerous trapped adult steelhead downstream of the dam that could not migrate upstream to a suitable spawning habitat. When a rescue team arrived to move the steelhead upstream, investigators said the steelhead were gone and they found evidence of poaching.

The trial will begin at 9 a.m. Monday at the U.S. District Court, Northern District of California in San Francisco. It is expected to last five to seven days. Judge Maxine M. Chesney will preside over the trial.

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