It seems non-native species are reaching all ends of the National Park System. In Glacier National Park, non-native lake trout have made it all the way into Quartz Lake, and officials are not happy about that.
Until recently, Quartz Lake was the largest natural lake with native fish populations in the entire Columbia River Basin that had not been compromised by non-native fish species. Despite efforts to protect Quartz Lake from invading lake trout, (by installation of a fish barrier back in 2004), they were discovered in the lake shortly afterward.
In response, Glacier officials want to evaluate and determine the status of lake trout in Quartz Lake, and then remove/suppress them. While the proposed project would take place on Quartz Lake, it has the potential to protect the native fishery of the entire upper Quartz Lake system which includes Middle Quartz and Cerulean lakes.
Lake trout first found their way into the park's waters after being introduced into nearby Flathead Lake about a century ago. Though it took some time, they were able to slowly expand their distribution and abundance throughout the Flathead Basin. Lake trout subsequently reached Glacier and in the relatively short pan of about 30 years replaced bull trout as the dominant aquatic predator in most of the park’s large west-side lakes.
The upper Quartz Lake system is located within recommended wilderness in the North Fork of the Flathead River watershed. Native fish species in this complex include bull trout, classified under the Endangered Species Act as “threatened,” westslope cutthroat trout, a Montana state species of special concern, and mountain whitefish.
Earlier this year park officials sought public input into what they should consider in developing a plan for dealing with the lake trout. That input has led to an environmental assessment that is now open for public comment through the end of June.
The Plan/EA evaluates a no action alternative and one action alternative that would evaluate the status of lake trout and remove them using a motorized boat and netting operation. Impacts associated with the proposal were evaluated by park resource specialists for the following topics: fisheries/aquatic species, recommended wilderness, visitor use and experience, wildlife, and Threatened and Endangered species, species of concern and natural sound.
To review and comment on the plan, head over to this site.