Protecting and restoring the westslope cutthroat trout, which has substantially declined in Yellowstone National Park and elsewhere within its range in the upper Missouri River drainage, is driving an environmental assessment now available to the public.
The park’s Native Fish Conservation Plan Environmental Assessment is designed to guide the management of fisheries and aquatic resources in the park for the next two decades and outlines a plan to restore genetically pure westslope cutthroat populations to the Specimen Creek watershed in the northwestern corner of the park.
The plan addresses the risk of interbreeding with introduced Yellowstone cutthroat and non-native rainbow. The preferred alternative would conserve the Yellowstone cutthroat trout in Yellowstone Lake by increased netting of non-native lake trout. It also calls for removal of non-native fish from some streams and lakes in the park, and introduction of native fish into restored habitats. It would allow managers to take an adaptive management approach to native fish conservation, incorporating new information and lessons gained from experience in annual work and treatment plans. This plan does not propose any changes in the Madison or Firehole rivers.
The Environmental Assessment (EA) and an electronic form to submit comments can be found here. A hard copy or CD of the EA is available by calling (307) 344-2874, or by writing to the Native Fish Conservation Plan EA, National Park Service, P.O. Box 168, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming 82190.
Those interested in learning more are encouraged to attend one of two public meetings scheduled for early next year:
Bozeman, MT: Jan. 5 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Comfort Inn, 1370 North 7th Ave.
Cody, WY: Jan. 6 from 6 to 8 p.m., at the Holiday Inn, 1701 Sheridan Ave.
Written comments may be submitted through the web site, in person, by mail or at either of the scheduled public meetings. Comments will not be accepted by phone, fax, or e-mail. All public comments must be received or postmarked by midnight, Jan. 31.
Once comments are analyzed, the National Park Service will make a decision on the final plan. The Regional Director of the Intermountain Region of the National Park Service will then sign a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) containing details of the decision, which is anticipated to occur in time to allow the park to move forward with conservation efforts this coming summer.