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Montana To Poison Lakes For Westslope Cutthroats

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So what do you guys think?


Fish kill plan on display


By MICHAEL JAMISON of the Missoulian

KALISPELL - Biologists are putting on public display the initial results of a complex and controversial program that will kill thousands of fish in wilderness lakes over the coming decade.


Last fall, fisheries managers began their work by poisoning two alpine lakes west of Kalispell, high in the protected Jewel Basin hiking area.


Both Black and Blackfoot lakes were dosed with rotenone, a fish killer that works on gills, and so leaves other aquatic species unharmed. The plan was to bolster native westslope cutthroat trout populations, first by killing hybrids and then by restocking with genetically pure fish.


That successful work - the first of 21 lakes to be treated in coming years - will be on display Tuesday at a public informational meeting in Kalispell.


The public, in fact, has been deeply involved with the project, which was five years in the planning. The environmental review of the work included four separate public comment periods and two dozen public meetings, as well as the promise of ongoing meetings as the effort moves forward.


The scientists also wrote assurances into the protocol, including continued monitoring of plankton, insect and amphibian populations, with a re-evaluation of the program after five years.


The first lake treated, biologists said, was 147-acre Black Lake, where an air tanker dropped 1,300 gallons of rotenone last October. A helicopter ferried in three additional barrels, which were poured from a boat and by drip stations set up at the lake's inlet and outlet.


(Rotenone breaks down and dissipates in a matter of days, and has a half-life of about two weeks.)


Thousands of fish were killed, sinking to the bottom where biologists hope they'll serve as a nutritional foundation for a restocked fishery.


The work was conducted in autumn, they said, to protect amphibians whose gills by then have been traded in for lungs.


The process was much the same at nearby Blackfoot Lake, which covers 16 acres and, like Black Lake, drains into the South Fork Flathead River drainage.


The South Fork is widely considered one of the last best strongholds for native cutthroat trout, with headwaters in and around the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex. It is a particularly important fishery, biologists said, because westslope cutthroat range has been reduced to just 9 percent of its historic area.


The South Fork population remains robust, but research has shown increasing numbers of hybrids there, as the native fish interbreed with introduced rainbow trout and Yellowstone cutthroats. The hybrids water down the gene pool, reproducing faster than natives, and eventually the new non-natives can completely wipe out resident populations.


To ensure the future of native fish in their South Fork home, biologists at the state Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks teamed with the Forest Service to craft a solution. With money from Bonneville Power Administration - habitat funds intended to mitigate for fisheries lost when Hungry Horse Reservoir was flooded - FWP embarked in 2007 on the $2.5 million project.


Wilderness advocates, however, cried foul at the use of aircraft, watercraft and poison in the backcountry. And anglers worried their favorite fishing spots might go belly up.


The controversy was fueled early this year when Vic Workman, an FWP commissioner, tried to quash the effort. Workman said rotenone could harm aquatic insects - although biologists said they'd used the poison more than 130 northwest Montana lakes since 1948, with no problems - and he worried the fisheries might not rebound as promised.


Workman also questioned whether the hybrids could ever be controlled, as large waterways such as Hungry Horse Reservoir and Big Salmon Lake are too vast for treatment.


The program, however, continues to generate strong support from fisheries scientists, and the commission denied Workman's request to kill the project. Instead, commissioners said they would accept further public comment, then review the program later this summer.


All of which makes Tuesday's public meeting important for those involved. The meeting will include several scientists on hand to answer questions and explain their work. A presentation will follow, with a summary of the efforts at Black and Blackfoot lakes (review those treatments at fwp.mt.gov/r1/wctproject/laketreatment/default.html.)


Biologists also will discuss the next step, which is to poison Big Hawk Lakes in September, and they will answer questions about that effort, as well.


In all, the Westslope Cutthroat Trout Conservation Project will treat 21 high mountain lakes over a 10-year period, poisoning in the fall and restocking in the spring.


Fishy business


The Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks is holding a public informational meeting Tuesday, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., at agency offices in Kalispell. Biologists will discuss an ongoing project intended to bolster native fish populations by poisoning hybrid-tainted lakes in and around the Bob Marshall Wilderness.

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If that is what has to be done to preserve genetic purity, the so be it. Less damaging than the bombs once proposed by Parks Canada, eh?


What I find more than mildly amusing is that rotenone is a pesticide, albeit 'natural' and so approved by the "organic" crowd. It is still a lethal toxin and yet in this case it is considered an appropriate use. Sure, whatever. And yet our society is all pissed off with a myriad of other harmful toxins certainly no more dangerous. Society is falling all over itself to ban evil pesticides in our cities and yet allows the use of a pesticide in a pristine mountain lake. Go figure, eh?


Rotenone MSDS


It is a funny world with many faces ... at least two faces for sure. ;)

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Could you not just net the lake over and over again for a few weeks and let every fisherman and his dog keep all the fish they catch? maybe feed the homeless with the trout netted? With the hillbilly poachers that are around they could empty a lake in a few years if was a no limit lake.

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"Society" in the States has been against the use of rotenone also.

There have been a number of situations in the last few years where managers wanted to poison a lake, but public pressure stopped it.


But there are places it has been applied, despite public pressure.


Davis Lake, Cal

Draining was an option to remove pike... hehehe yeah right.

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Could you not just net the lake over and over again for a few weeks and let every fisherman and his dog keep all the fish they catch? maybe feed the homeless with the trout netted? With the hillbilly poachers that are around they could empty a lake in a few years if was a no limit lake.


They've tried netting in a number of places without sucess... all it takes is one rainbow/hybrid to mess up the population, and I assume that the rainbows are spawning successfully in the lake.


I'm not saying I support the poison (or that I don't).

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Before they worry about how to get the rainbows/ hybrids out of the lakes, they need to worry about finding out how the rainbows/ hybrids got there in the first place and ensuring it doesn't happen in the future. If it was a intentional stocking (either by Montana Department of Fisheries or by a wayward angler that wanted to catch bows) then they need to figure out how to solve that problem. If it is a lack of natural barriers between the inlets/ outlets and the lakes then it would seem pointless to use rotenone. I've seen that happen on the east coast in Shenandoah National Park. Used rotenone in one stream and killed all the fish, stocked brookies back into the stream and there were no natural barriers that the fish couldn't pass....a couple years later they had browns swimming in that stream again. Seems rather pointless to me.

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One of the large lakes I fish used to get a yearly dose of rotenone to knock back the suckers as they were congregating in the bays to spawn. It has not been done for a while now, but the lake appears to still be quite productive.

It's a shame how man has messed up functional systems by adding new species. When we try to fix our mistakes it rarely works out.

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