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Park approves fish restoration project

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A regional group of federal and state organizations has agreed to stand up for its native fish: the Yellowstone cutthroat trout.

Yellowstone National Park, in coordination with partner agencies Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Wyoming Game and Fish Department, and the U.S. Forest Service, has approved a project to remove nonnative brook trout from Soda Butte Creek and reintroduce Yellowstone cutthroat trout into the stream to restore the native fish population.

The Soda Butte Creek Native Fish Restoration Project will help restore an important fishery in upper Soda Butte Creek by protecting native cutthroat trout populations of the Lamar River watershed from future invasion by nonnative brook trout.

This project is part of Yellowstone’s 2010 Native Fish Conservation Plan to conserve native fish from threats of non-native species, disease and climate. Under this proposal, biologists will remove brook trout by applying an EPA-approved piscicide called rotenone to Soda Butte Creek upstream of Ice Box Canyon.

Pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act, a draft Categorical Exclusion for this project was prepared and made available for public review from May 20 to June 19. The park received a total of 56 pieces of correspondence.

In response to public comments concerning potential negative impacts to native Yellowstone cutthroat trout currently living in Soda Butte Creek, the park and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks will use electroshock fishing to remove cutthroat trout prior to the rotenone treatments. The salvaged cutthroat will be held within the Soda Butte Creek watershed and returned to the creek in the areas of Cooke City and Silver Gate following the treatments.

Cutthroat trout are the only trout species native to Yellowstone and were once the dominant fish species within the park prior to Euro-American settlement. Native cutthroat trout are considered among the most ecologically important fish of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and are highly regarded by anglers.

Genetically pure Yellowstone cutthroat trout populations have declined throughout their natural range in the Intermountain West, succumbing to competition with and predation by non-native fish species, a loss of genetic integrity through hybridization, habitat degradation and predation.

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