WILL WE EVER SEE A WILD FISHERIES IN THE UINTAS?
YOUR WILD VOICE and COMMENTS are NEEDED for initial scoping by MARCH 3 and should be sent to:
Kirk Mullins, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, 152 E. 100 N., Vernal, UT 84078 or to
Steve Phillips, Fisheries Biologist, Ashley National Forest, 355 N. Vernal Ave., Vernal, UT 84078, firstname.lastname@example.org
Make sure you specify your comments are for the record and are about the fish eradication/Colorado River Cutthroat Trout proposal on the eastern Uintas.
A scoping letter by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (UDWR) and Ashley National Forest (ANF) proposes to use rotenone and antimycin, two powerful fish killing toxicants, on select portions of Reader Creek, Dry Fork, North Fork Ashley Creek, Little Brush Creek, Mann Creek and West Fork Carter Creek. All of these streams are on the eastern end of the Uintas on both the North and South Slopes and all outside of the High Uintas Wilderness (HUW), although many portions of these streams are within undeveloped roadless lands adjacent to the HUW. [If you would like more information from HUPC on these fisheries issues, please see HUPC Newsletter, August 1997 or the International Journal of Wilderness, September 1997, December 1999] The purpose of the proposal is to kill competing nonnative fisheries (brookies, rainbow trout and non-indigenous cutthroat trout), while attempting to remove and isolate the very small native populations of Colorado River Cutthroat Trout (CRCT) that are harbored in isolated reaches of each of these stream segments. After the toxicants have been neutralized the natives would be replaced and stocked with CRCT. Small fish barriers would be put in place at the lower end of the treatment areas to try to prevent invasion of non-native fisheries which would still be stocked and managed outside of these stream segments! As you all know the native CRCT, the only native trout in these streams, has been reduced to a tiny fraction of its native range and numbers. Ecologists fear the species occupies at the outside about 5% of its range and then only in significantly depressed and isolated populations. Both hybridization and competition by rainbow and brook tout have nearly wiped this wild trout out of existence. It is presently, along with Utah's other native trout, the Bonneville Cutthroat Trout, undergoing a formal analysis for listing as a threatened and endangered species and it is hoped by UDWR and ANF that this process will stall the listing process.
BUT IT IS MISGUIDED.
- This is piecemeal management having little effect on the survival of the CRCT and is not based on the minimal ecosystem principles. Nonnative recreational based fish stocking created this growing and serious ecological issue which is now being attacked on a tiny scale using rotenone which will kill all fish, most macroinvertebrates and many amphibian species. (Antimycin is a more selective antibiotic fish killer.) Recovery of these sensitive indicator species at high elevations is a significant issue, not to mention many native fisheries may be killed by accident--not all of them will be trapped and caught before application of the toxicants. Ironically, non native hook and cook fisheries will continue to be placed in these streams below fish barriers--a recipe for disaster.
- Amazingly enough, minimal macroinvertebrate and amphibian studies and inventories have not been proposed prior to this action to determine the status of the ecosystem before such a repressive and profound treatment.
BUT WHAT AN OPPORTUNITY AWAITS US!
Tell the Forest Service to:
- Stop this piecemeal approach and look at the whole High Uintas ecosystem starting with the High Uintas Wilderness (HUW) to determine the kind and management of native fisheries on the mountain. Remember, the law requires the Forest Service to manage for only native species within wilderness yet they refuse to focus on the place which has the highest opportunity to assure protected CRCT populations!
- Broaden the scope of the project and take in a long 10 year view of eradicating nonnative fisheries, starting with the creation of a native trout refugia on major drainages within the High Uintas Wilderness for both of Utah's native trout species. We have already proposed a CRCT refugium on the Yellowstone River drainage (see the references cited above). It will take time and study but the long term benefits will be profound.
- Start all of this with an immediate end to nonnative fish stocking, particularly within the HUW and in all drainages selected to preserve the native fisheries. After all, this is the fundamental problem and no progress can be made, teeny or meaningful, until the root cause of the issues is addressed!
- Assure complete and comprehensive macroinvertebrate and amphibian inventories are completed. Please use your wild voice to help move this issue forward.
Thank you so much!