Should North Cascades National Park be forced to stock non-native fish in high-country lakes that normally would be barren? Apparently the U.S. House of Representatives thinks so. Do you?
This is one of those tough questions that arises from time to time across the National Park System: Should science or political pressure be the guiding hand of national park management? Of course, in this issue there's the additional wild card of tradition. For generations folks have been lugging trout up into the park's high country to stock the lakes, which under normal conditions couldn't sustain a wild fishery because there are not enough nutrients.
The stocking expeditions began late in the 19th century and have been handed down, father to son, father to son (and daughter no doubt), although in recent years the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife has handled the chore.
Now, park managers believe continued stocking with non-native fish species is contrary to their mission to manage the park and its waters unimpaired for the next generation. Bringing the stockings to a halt would not be precedent setting. Indeed, the fact that North Cascades still allows the practice is something of a precedent, as other parks that once stocked fish and actually ran hatcheries -- places like Yellowstone and Yosemite -- long ago did away with those operations. Today North Cascades National Park stands, to the best of Superintendent Chip Jenkins' knowledge, as the last national park with a stocking operation involving non-native fish.
Which brings us to the park's decision to halt the practice. Under a Record of Decision approved in December, park managers on July 1 plan to ban fish stocking in as many as 42 high-country lakes unless Congress intervenes.
Congress is on the verge of intervening. On Tuesday the House passed legislation introduced by Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Washington, to direct the Park Service to allow the stockings to continue. A final say awaits the measure in the Senate.