NPS plans more eradication of non-native trout in waterways

 

Danny Boiano, National Park Service wildlife biologist, stated his agency’s case for more species restoration in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks during a public meeting Wednesday, Nov. 20, at the Three Rivers Arts Center. The critters to be restored are two distinct and threatened species of yellow-legged frogs that, because of declining numbers, are now found only in two places: Southern California and the higher elevations of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.   

Boiano’s presentation was part of a public meeting mandated in preparing a DEIS (Draft Environmental Impact Statement) to secure federal funding to proceed with the eradication of non-native trout. The trout, a highly prized game fish that have been planted in the High Sierra since the 1870s, are believed to be primarily responsible for the precipitous decline of the frogs.

Stocking of trout in the local national parks was discontinued in 1988. But the trout are a hearty species, Boiano said, and continue to thrive.

The evidence that the trout are the culprits in the disappearance of the frogs has been demonstrated in the findings of the project to date, Boiano said. His NPS crew has been removing frogs from high country lakes since 2001 and, in completed areas, the frogs have increased as much as fourteen-fold.

There are approximately 549 high elevation lakes, ponds, and streams where trout are found. The sites targeted for removal are remote, difficult to access, and not frequented by the typical Sierra fishing recreationists.

If the preferred alternative is selected, nonnative trout would be removed from 32 lakes, 50 ponds, and five marshes, or 16 percent of the parks’ lakes, ponds, and marshes where the trout are present. Non-native trout would also be removed from 41 miles of streams, or about one percent of the fish population in the parks’ streams. The trout in question would remain in 462 lakes, ponds and marshes.

In addition to the preferred removal method of gill netting and electro-fishing, piscicides containing rotenone as the active ingredient could be used to treat larger areas with quicker results. Boiano said there are no long-term negative effects on water quality when piscicides are administered but its use in wilderness is controversial.

Dave Paradis, a local innkeeper who attended Wednesday’s meeting, suggested that the NPS use vacant trout hatcheries to hatch frogs instead of the eradication of the trout. Boiano said that the hatcheries are owned and maintained by the State of California and didn’t think that approach would be a permanent solution.

Another member of the audience said why not raise limits and encourage local fisherman to try to fish out the targeted lakes and streams. Boiano said that fishing incentives don’t work because it doesn’t remove all the fish.

But Boiano acknowledged that the audience comments can be considered in the final report and should be submitted in writing.

If the management preferred alternative is selected, considering inflation for the implementation period (25 to 35 years), the average project costs would be approximately $200,000 per year.

“Funding for implementing restoration actions contained in the draft plan comes from a different part of the budget and does not compete with facility operations and visitor programs,” said Woody Smeck, superintendent of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. “Implementing the plan would not come at the expense of closing a facility or cutting an interpretive program.”

Smeck also said he believes that the trout removal is a balanced solution that sustains visitor access and ample fishing opportunities while protecting native biodiversity inside the parks.

Nancy Hendricks, the parks’ environmental specialist, reminded all who attended the meeting that the public has until Tuesday, Dec. 17, to submit written comments on the project.

Comments may be made online at: http://parkplanning.nps.gov/aquatics; via mail or by hand delivery to: Superintendent, Attn: Aquatic Ecosystems Restoration Plan/DEIS, 47050 Generals Highway, Three Rivers, CA 93271; or by fax (559) 565-4202.

More information on the plan is available by visiting the NPS Public Comment and Environmental Compliance website or calling 565-3131.

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