Developer pleads guilty to poaching

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

A San Francisco real estate developer who was charged with
damming Little Arthur Creek and poaching a threatened species of
steelhead trout in 2007 pleaded guilty to all charges, according to
a witness in the case.
A San Francisco real estate developer who was charged with damming Little Arthur Creek and poaching a threatened species of steelhead trout in 2007 pleaded guilty to all charges, according to a witness in the case.

Luke Brugnara had faced 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.

Local environmentalist Herman Garcia, who had been subpoenaed as a witness in the case, said Tuesday afternoon that he had received a phone call from the U.S. District courthouse in San Francisco saying that he did not have to show up because of Brugnara’s plea. Jury selection for the trial had started on Monday, Garcia said.

This was 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.

Leave your comments