Public Meetings This Week To Address Sequoia, Kings Canyon National Parks' Trout Removal Plans

Three public meetings are scheduled this week to discuss plans to restore the health of high-country aquatic ecosystems in Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks by removing non-native trout from them.

This issue has been building for some years. Back in 2009 we reported on the parks' move in this direction, with the goal being to not only remove a non-native species but also help the prospects of the diminutive mountain yellow-legged frog. This amphibian was once one of the most abundant vertebrates in the Sierra Nevada. The flash of its yellow legs could be seen and the echo of its croaking could be heard across the Sierra’s alpine lakes, even those nestled at 12,000 feet that contain watery habitats typically too cold for amphibians.

Unfortunately, that empire began to crumble as long ago as 1850 when non-native trout were first transplanted into some of those lakes to increase fishing opportunities. The introduced fish found the frogs and their offspring to be delectable. Fish stocking became more vigorous in the 1920s when the State of California took control of the program; in the 1950s the program was stepped up again as ground crews transplanting trout received aerial support for stocking some of the high backcountry lakes.

Under the plan up for discussion this week, the restoration "would be done by removing non-native trout from up to 87 remote, historically fishless, high-elevation waterbodies and 41 miles of connecting streams to allow for native species and ecosystems to flourish and function naturally. This work would increase the resistance and resilience of native species, including frogs, aquatic invertebrates, snakes, and birds, to other threats such as disease and climate change."

Park officials note that "(F)ishing is a welcomed and popular form of recreation and will continue to be available and promoted throughout Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks to meet a wide variety of interests and abilities. Treatment sites in this project were selected to avoid most lakes with a reputation for good fishing. Actions contained in the plan are restricted to removing nonnative trout in lakes and streams in remote, high elevation settings.

"The vast majority of project sites do not support quality trout fishing opportunities. The plan would affect up to 16 percent of fish populations in park lakes, ponds, and marshes. Impacts to recreational fishing would be minor, as nonnative trout would remain in 462 lakes, ponds, or marshes. The restoration plan does not propose to permanently close areas to recreational activities or stock use."

The meetings are scheduled for:

* November 19 (from 7-8 p.m.)

UC Merced Fresno Center

Inyo-Kern Conference Room

500 East Shaw Ave.

Fresno, CA 93710

* November 20 (from 7-8 p.m.)

Three Rivers Arts Center

41763 North Fork Drive

Three Rivers, CA 93271

* November 21 (from 7-8 p.m.)

Tri-County Fairgrounds

Tallman Pavilion

Sierra Street and Fair Drive

Bishop, CA 93515

The comment period for this plan is running through December 17. You can find more details on the plan, and leave your comments, at this site.