Yellowstone National Park Proposing to Increase Gill-Netting of Lake Trout to Help Native Cutthroat Trout

Yellowstone officials are seeking public comment on a proposed fisheries plan intended to help native Yellowstone cutthroat trout endure an onslaught by voracious lake trout. NPS photo.

More than a decade after non-native lake trout were discovered in Yellowstone Lake, the battle to beat down the population of those voracious fish continues. While gill-netting long has been used to cull lake trout, Yellowstone National Park officials want to increase those operations to help native cutthroat trout survive the onslaught of the bigger fish.

In a document now open for public review -- Native Fish Conservation Plan Environmental Assessment -- park officials not only hope to exert more pressure on lake trout populations, but also address other fisheries issues in the park for the next two decades. Along with the lake trout that were discovered in Yellowstone Lake back in 1994, the park's fisheries are grappling with invasive species, the effects of climate change, and disease. Those factors have combined to lead to an overall decline in the park's native fish populations, according to park officials.

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 on the internet can be found on the web at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/yell. 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 about the EA are encouraged to attend one of two public meetings scheduled for early next year:

* Bozeman, Montana: January 5th from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m., at the Comfort Inn, 1 370 North 7th Avenue

* Cody, Wyoming: January 6th from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m., at the Holiday Inn, 1701 Sheridan Avenue

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, January 31, 2011.

Once comments are analyzed, the National Park Service will make a decision on the final plan, which must be endorsed by the director of the National Park Service's Intermountain Region. Yellowstone officials hope the progress moves smoothly enough to allow for the plan to be implemented next summer.