Across the National Park System, habitat restoration efforts seem to be ongoing daily, and specific projects can take years to complete. One such project is ongoing in Yellowstone National Park, where crews are working to restore native Yellowstone cutthroat trout to streams.
Elk Creek and its tributaries, including Lost and Yancey creeks, are located near Tower Junction in the Yellowstone River drainage. Decades ago, the streams were stocked with non-native brook trout, according to park officials. The presence of those trout, which compete with cutthroat trout, contributed to a decline in native cutthroat trout in park lakes, rivers and streams.
Last week biologists introduced a fish toxin into the streams to remove the non-native brook trout as part of Yellowstone’s Native Fish Conservation Plan and Environmental Assessment, which was approved in May 2011. The project is not expected to impact the nearby Yellowstone River.
While the chemical Rotenone will be introduced in small quantities, visitors are advised not to swim in or drink from the streams now through October 7. Warning signs were to be posted at all treated areas.
This year’s treatment is the first in a series that is expected to continue over the next two to three years. Treatments will be conducted until brook trout have been completely removed from the streams.
The park will then reintroduce genetically pure native Yellowstone cutthroat trout to the streams. The long-term plan is not only to support native species restoration, but also for these streams to provide a brood stock population of cutthroat for future restoration efforts.