When poisoning is the solution

A victory for an endangered fish, though some environmentalists fought hard to prevent it.

 

One of the more spectacular success stories of the Endangered Species Act is playing out in the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness of the Toiyabe-Humboldt National Forest, high in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Heroic and persevering managers of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Forest Service have prevailed in their 10-year legal battle to save America’s rarest trout -- the federally threatened Paiute cutthroat. Its entire natural habitat consists of nine miles of Silver King Creek.

Cutthroat trout subspecies of the Interior West are being hybridized off the planet by rainbow trout from the Pacific Northwest, dumped into their habitat during the age of ecological illiteracy, which ended circa 1970.

In most cases, the only hope for the natives is rotenone, a short-lived, easily neutralized, organic poison rendered from tropical plants.

But a war on rotenone has been declared by chemophobic environmentalists, who refuse to learn about it, and by anglers who don’t care what’s on the other end of the rod so long as it’s bent. Although rotenone is essential to management as defined by the Wilderness Act, the group Wilderness Watch, for example, asserts that “poison has no place in wilderness.” And Peter Moyer, founder of the Orwellian-named Wild Trout Conservation Coalition, offers this mindless defense of cutthroat trout extinction: “I am a bit of a mongrel myself.”

State and federal fisheries managers are mandated by the Endangered Species Act to save the natives by poisoning the aliens. For years, however, this work has been impeded by individuals, publications and organizations that concoct and recycle horror stories about rotenone. Apparently, they haven’t figured out that fish are wildlife, too.

The worst offenders have been Outdoor Life magazine, Range magazine,Real Fishing magazine, Friends of the Wild Swan, Beyond Pesticides, Defenders of Wildlife, two Sierra Club chapters, Wild Trout Conservation Coalition, Wilderness Watch, Center for Biological Diversity, Pacific Rivers Council, Californians for Alternatives to Toxics, Friends of Silver King Creek, and the Western Environmental Law Center.

The last six of these organizations managed to derail Paiute cutthroat recovery for a full decade. They accomplished this with endless appeals and lawsuits, all based on fiction. Typical of the absurd statements about rotenone was this proclamation by the pro bono counsel for the litigants, the Western Environmental Law Center: “Unfortunately, the chemical does not just kill the fish in the water but the entire ecosystem, including turtles, snakes, frogs, birds, terrestrials, insects and other animals that live in or drink from the poisoned water.”

Rotenone used in fish recovery has never affected an ecosystem except to restore it. And it has never killed a turtle, snake, frog, bird or any terrestrial organism. Aquatic insects usually survive treatment, and the few that don’t are swiftly replaced by natural recruitment. In fact, insects frequently do better after treatment because they don’t have to contend with fish they didn’t evolve with.

Appellants and litigants claimed a “link” between rotenone and Parkinson’s disease, basing this untruth on an Emory University study in which concentrated rotenone was mainlined into rats’ jugular veins via implanted pumps. (Rotenone used in fisheries management is applied at less than 50 parts per billion.) At the end of a year and a half no rat had Parkinson’s disease. The researchers knew they couldn’t cause Parkinson’s and never intended to. They wanted to establish a “Parkinson’s-like condition” -- i.e. tremors -- in an animal model.

Appellants and litigants also claimed that rotenone threatened the rare mountain yellow-legged frog. But it was extirpated in the watershed sometime in the 20th century, probably by the very alien rainbow trout that had been extirpating Paiute cutthroats. Rotenone doesn’t affect adult frogs but can kill tadpoles, though it usually doesn’t. If frogs are present, managers delay treatment until tadpoles transform. Ironically, rotenone is being used elsewhere in the Sierras to recover yellow-legged frogs by killing the alien trout that are eating them.

With each successful appeal and lawsuit, rotenone opponents boasted that they had “saved” Silver King Creek. But last August they ran out of legal options, and the managers applied about two quarts of rotenone to the entire treatment area. In case a few hybrids survived, two more quarts will be applied next August. Then, pure Paiutes will be reintroduced.

This will be the first time humans have restored a threatened or endangered fish to 100 percent of its historic range. Maybe it’s a turning point in the war.

Ted Williams is a contributor to Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News. He writes for Fly Rod & Reel magazine. 

Note: the opinions expressed in this column are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of High Country News, its board or staff. If you'd like to share an opinion piece of your own, please write Betsy Marston at betsym@hcn.org.

Jeff Kane
Jeff Kane
Mar 12, 2014 11:42 AM
It is shocking and appalling that HCN editors would publish and syndicate such vitriolic and misinformed "opinion." One does not even need to read beyond the author's personal attack on the people and interests involved in this issue to know that the author does not have anything constructive to offer to public debate about this project, its history, and the investment and dedication of individuals involved on both sides of it. Aside from misstating and dismissing the legitimate issues with applying a pesticide, one that is banned throughout most of the civilized world due its toxicity, to waters in a Wilderness area, he fails to acknowledge many of the other nuances that were at the heart of the challenges to this project. Namely, that paiute cutthroat trout have a number of other viable populations in the Sierra Nevada and that the state and federal agencies have never been able to demonstrate that the poisoned reach was exclusively PCT habitat before they began stocking non-native trout there, that the purported "barrier" below the poisoned reach will actually keep the non-natives from re-colonizing, or that the poison will not have lasting impacts on the invertebrate, amphibian, and other fauna that inhabit Silver King Creek. And to suggest that the damaging practices of the hook and bullet club state and federal wildlife agencies somehow ceased in the 1970s -- puhhlease -- this only demonstrates the author's own bias and "ecological illiteracy."

I hope HCN's editors will refrain from publishing such biased, factually inaccurate claptrap, whether or not in the guise of "opinion."
Maya Leonard-Cahn
Maya Leonard-Cahn
Mar 12, 2014 01:29 PM
I couldn't agree more with the previous comment. This author either didn't bother or didn't care to read the scientific literature demonstrating the catastrophic effects of rotenone on ecosystems, particularly with regard to non-target species. The effects of rotenone applications on aquatic ecoystems are much more complex than this author admits. Studies by respected authors including Dawson, Anderson, Beal, and Bradbury, have all demonstrated substantial reductions to phytoplankton and zooplankton following rotenone applications. This research does not deserve to be overlooked. Further, the author's complete dismissal for the argument that poison does not belong in wilderness is further evidence of his profound bias. I hope other readers will delve further than this author was willing to go into the complex and nuanced issue of the poisoning of Silver King Creek. Maybe then we can have a more a productive dialog about this important issue.
Jason Storm
Jason Storm
Dec 17, 2015 04:47 PM
I have read research by all of the scientists you list, and can have a productive and informed dialog. First, from my exhaustive literature search, I conclude that Dawson has not studied the effects of rotenone on zooplankton or phytoplankton. He has examined the effects of temperature on rotenone break down, and the ability of soil to bind rotenone, and reduce its half life substantially, compared to concrete lined ponds. Here are Dawson's peer-reviewed publications on the topic: Dawson, V.K., W.H. Gingerich, R.A. Davis, and P.A. Gilderhus. 1991. Rotenone persistence in freshwater ponds: effects of temperature and sediment adsorption. North American Journal of Fisheries Management. 11:226-231. Gilderhus, P.A., J.L. Allen, and V.K. Dawson. 1986. Persistence of rotenone in ponds at different temperatures. North American Journal of Fisheries Management. 6: 129-130.)

If you have citations for any research Dawson conducted on plankton, please provide it. If you don't, I respectfully suggest that you are either being untruthful or sloppy, neither of which is acceptable in "productive dialog".

Beal and Anderson did evaluate the response of zooplankton to rotenone (1993 Bulletin of Environmental Contamination and Toxicoloty 51:551-556. They evaluated recovery of zooplankton in a pond treated with rotenone to remove nonnative grass carp. Copepods recovered within 2 months, and then increased to 10 times their baseline densities during the next 2 months. Rotifers densities bounced around for a few months, but were recovered within 6 months. Cladocerans recovered within 8 months.

What you miss in citing this work is how detrimental grass carp are to the ecology and trophic functioning of ponds. The literature on grass carp is exhaustive, and I don't have the time or inclination to review it here, especially since you do not provide an accurate accounting of researchers evaluating the effect of rotenone on zooplankton and phytoplankton. For illustrative purposes, I will share anecdotal evidence from my family's bass pond. A bucket biologist dumped a single grass carp into the pond. Within 3 years, it had consumed all of the beneficial aquatic macrophytes that supported the insects that fed the bluegills that fed the bass. It also eliminated the cattails that occupied the littoral zone for 50 years. With the loss of cattails, a dense forest became established around the pond, where there had been no trees, and trees were towering over 20 feet within 3 years. These phreatophytes have nearly sucked the pond dry, and the fishery has crashed. In ecological, recreational, and financial terms, I would have preferred reduced density of zooplankton for 2 months, and reduced diversity of zooplankton for 8 months, than a crashed fishery that will take several years to recover, and the expense and nuisance of cutting down a forest of trees infested with poison ivy.

If you want to have a productive dialog on the effect of grass carp on pond ecology and native fishes based on scientific research, do your own literature search and get back to me. I'm sure that I can more than hold my own against your demonstrated genius for flawed reporting and lack of understanding of the science.

My literature search has not found that Alex Bradbury has conducted any research on plankton. He has a publication where he evaluated rotenone and cyanide toxicity. He also produced a non-peer-reviewed literature review on rotenone and trout stocking, in which he cited Dawson, Anderson, and Beal.

I have found no research addressing the effect of rotenone treatment on phytoplankton, because rotenone is not toxic to plants. Indeed, rotenone has been used as a pesticide in organic gardening for decades. If it was toxic to primary producers, it wouldn't make a good pesticide, because it would kill the plants that applicators were trying to protect from invertebrates.

So, I have delved into this literature, and am capable of an informed, productive dialog. Based on this literature, I conclude that rotenone breaks down within days or less when applied in waters with sediment to bind to, and when temperatures exceed 0 °C. I know that current practice in streams entails use of detoxification stations that limit the toxic concentrations of rotenone to within 30 to 45 minutes of stream travel time. In lentic waters, zooplankton has relatively short-term reductions in biomass (2 to 4 months), and diversity recovers within 8 months. I also conclude that you are not clear on what these researchers have published, and don't understand the larger picture of native species management or the detrimental effects nonnatives have on trophic structure and native species.

If you disagree with my conclusions, please develop a response by actually reading what researchers publish. Waving around some names of "respected authors" is not the same as reading what they actually have published, and understanding the larger ecological context and ramifications for conservation.
Jason Storm
Jason Storm
Dec 17, 2015 04:52 PM
Oh, and the other wonderful result of the grass carp was that by eliminating macrophytes, it freed nitrogen to be used by filamentous, green algae, sometimes referred to as pond scum. if the pond was worth fishing, it would be unfishable, because the pond scum gloms on to fly or lure. What people don't realize when they introduce grass carp is that it is selective in what it eats, and does not eat green algae, which then explodes in to tremendous nuisance blooms.
Jeff Kane
Jeff Kane
Mar 12, 2014 03:45 PM
Since Mr. Williams himself is better at undermining his own credibility, opinion, and avowed cause than anyone else, please see his full libelous, vindictive screed and response to comments here:
http://www.flyrodreel.com/magazine/2014/conservation
Robb Cadwell
Robb Cadwell
Mar 12, 2014 09:04 PM
Way to go Ted! You get sick of scribbling WS has a place for you distributing M44.
Ted Williams
Ted Williams
Mar 12, 2014 09:06 PM
Jeff: Thanks for posting that link. See also: http://www.scottchurchdirect.com/[…]/ann-and-nancys-war?pg=1
Ted Williams
Ted Williams
Mar 13, 2014 09:58 AM
Jeff, as a board member for Wilderness Watch--the group that has done more than any other to torpedo imperiled-fish recovery throughout the West--can you please tell us why your outfit supports every icon of wilderness save native cutthroat trout? (By the way, the other “viable populations in the Sierra Nevada” are in non-native habitat and created by the managers for the express purpose of restoring the fish to its NATIVE habitat. And by the way, rotenone for freshwater fisheries management, which is applied at less than 50 parts per BILLION, has not been “banned” anywhere.”)

And Maya, as Campaign Coordinator for the Western Environmental Law Center, do you stand by your outfit’s public comment that: “Unfortunately, the chemical [rotenone] does not just kill the fish in the water but the entire ecosystem, including turtles, snakes, frogs, birds, terrestrials, insects and other animals that live in or drink from the poisoned water.” If you do, please tell us why we should believe anything you say. If you don’t, please tell us why you work for an outfit that says things like that.
David Lass
David Lass
Mar 13, 2014 05:18 PM
As a conservationist and fanatical angler of fish of all different sizes, shapes and colors, I strongly feel that native trout are inherently part of Wilderness “character and values,” and there aren't many places where wild populations of native fish still persist. Wilderness is one of those places. Thankfully Wilderness lands across our great nation still provide some of the last, best habitat and forage for native fishes to thrive; Wilderness lands truly are the last refugia for native trout, salmon and steelhead. My hope is that as folks read this piece from Ted, they understand that Wilderness and native trout are synonymous, and in cases like Silver King Creek where we managed to screw things up in the past, rotenone is, in the view of both Trout Unlimited (leading coldwater fish organization representing anglers) and Wilderness managers, the “minimum tool” for restoring native trout to their historic ranges in Wilderness. It's also the most cost effective and provides the smallest cummulative impact over the long run when compared to mechanical and dewatering or pumping treatments.

As Ted describes, this has been a really long and drawn out saga, and I really hope that those on either side of the table can come together to agree that native fish and Wilderness are two great things we should all embrace as Americans. I know I'm stoked that Paiute cutts are finally going to come home to Silver King creek, not out of any desire to fish for them, but just because it's the right thing to do. Great work in telling this story, Ted.
Erik Schlenker-Goodrich
Erik Schlenker-Goodrich
Mar 14, 2014 04:38 PM
The Western Environmental Law Center is a nonprofit public interest environmental law firm. We represent grassroots, community-based conservation efforts in the West to protect clean air, clean water, wildlands, and wildlife. Our litigation is rooted in science and law. We certainly share in the desire to restore native trout, but the effects of rotenone (a neurotoxin) to ecosystems are (despite Mr. William's simplification) controversial, which is among the reasons why one federal court chose to enjoin this project. Ted Williams is entitled to his opinion, but we stand by our work.

We'd also note that Maya Leonard-Cahn did excellent work for WELC during our campaign to prevent field burning in Oregon but did not work in this issue and is no longer on our staff.

Sincerely,
Erik Schlenker-Goodrich
Executive Director
Western Environmental Law Center
Ted Williams
Ted Williams
Mar 14, 2014 06:05 PM
Erik:
I reported facts, facts you and the groups your attorneys represented don’t want to know and don’t want the public to know. My statements about rotenone are not “opinions,” as you would know if you’d read the scientific literature. The court enjoined the project because your attorneys shopped for a clueless judge. When the judge finally learned the facts about rotenone in imperiled-fish recovery he lifted the injunction.
 
The reason rotenone use in fisheries management is “controversial” is because of the wives’ tales gushing from groups such as yours. Here is a typical example:

“Unfortunately, the chemical [rotenone] does not just kill the fish in the water but the entire ecosystem, including turtles, snakes, frogs, birds, terrestrials, insects and other animals that live in or drink from the poisoned water.”

Guess where that came from. The group you run published it as press release! And it’s only one of many such wild, ridiculous untruths used in the litigation you claim is “rooted in science.”

(Any fisheries biologists out there care to chime in on the veracity of that press release?)

Erik, do you stand by the above statement? If so, please tell us why we should believe anything you or your outfit says. If not, please tell us why you allow your staff to publish such gross misinformation. And please tell us when the retraction and apology will be published.
Jason Storm
Jason Storm
Dec 16, 2015 03:40 PM
Hello Ted, first, I would like to thank you for being an advocate of native trout conservation, and an outspoken, informed proponent of the need for rotenone in native species conservation. I am a fish biologist, and will chime in on the veracity of the claim that rotenone kills, turtles, snakes, frogs, birds, terrestrials, insects and other animals that live or drink from the poisoned water." I challenge Erik Schlenkler-Goodrich to present peer-reviewed research to support his nonsense.

I have experience in native fish restoration, although it has been years since I have researched the literature on rotenone. A quick google search brought me to an environmental assessment prepared for a recently implemented piscicide project that includes the most recent research, and has an exhaustive review of the literature(http://fwp.mt.gov/[…]/pn_0026.html).

Erik's statement is not only not supported by the scientific literature, but it's patently absurd. To summarize the literature review, rotenone is toxic to fish, and gill-bearing aquatic organisms, which includes many aquatic invertebrates and tadpoles. Nonetheless, the low concentration, short duration of exposure, rapid degradation of rotenone, and incredibly low concentrations of rotenone in treated water does not pose a threat to reptiles, mammals, birds, or any other vertebrate. As you noted, the effective concentration is less than 50 ppb. For the non-chemist, the author of the assessment converted that concentration to the equivalent concentration of grains of salt per liter, which is approximately 1/4 to 1/2 grains/liter.

Rotenone is lethal to fish, but the assessment references peer-reviewed studies that found many invertebrates to be far less vulnerable. Furthermore, the peer-reviewed scientific literature cited in the assessment that addressed toxicity to amphibians found that rotenone is lethally toxic to amphibians while they are gilled tadpoles. Bioassays found metamorphs, juveniles, and adults to be resistant to rotenone. Furthermore, the assessment cites a study that found that frogs were more abundant in the spring following rotenone treatment. Timing rotenone application after frogs and toads have passed through the gill-bearing stage protects these magnificent creatures.

If Erik has peer-reviewed evidence that rotenone is toxic to reptiles, or the host of other non-gill respiring organisms drinking treated water, consuming organisms killed by rotenone, or having any contact with the water, he needs to produce that information, because it is not borne by the research. The assessment provides a large body of evidence that shows that the combination of the minute concentration, short duration of exposure, rapid degradation rotenone in the environment, and the acidic environment of the vertebrate gut results in rotenone presenting no measurable threat to these organisms when used in fish removal projects.

The concern for aquatic invertebrates is honorable, but misplaced. Anyone who has taken a class in stream ecology knows that aquatic invertebrates rebound quickly following disturbance. The assessment cogently refutes the concerns over the long-term effects on aquatic invertebrates, again, using peer-reviewed research, and information that is consistent with the stream ecology course I took so many years ago. Anyone who has constructed a pond knows that invertebrates colonize lentic waters at an amazing rate.

If I were a contributor to the Western Environmental Law Center, I would quickly find a more informed environmental organizations to support. If Erik was to go to court to stop rotenone projects based on his fictitious views, he would get a sound thrashing, and he would have wasted valuable funds that could be used to address real environmental problems.

I'm continually flummoxed by the ability of supposedly educated, intelligent people, who clearly value the natural world, to ignore the science, and oppose use of this critical tool in native fish conservation. That a director of a law center can spout such nonsense is beyond my ken. They need to stop tilting at windmills and tackle actual, environmental problems. For example, look at how the EPA and states are not implementing the Clean Water Act with respect to nonpoint source pollutants, and the relationship between dewatering and increased water temperatures. Really, go forth and do good work! You can win those court battles.

Mr. Williams, I have been a fan of your articles for decades, and find your writing skills and knowledge to be exemplary. The supposed conservationists who oppose you have no idea that they are entering into a Godzilla versus Bambi scenario when engaging you. I suspect the Duncan-Kruger effect is at play - look it up, it's fascinating, yet scary. I hope for the sake of their donors that they become informed on the science, and move on to real issues.
Lorie Swanson
Lorie Swanson
Mar 14, 2014 10:40 PM
I am writing this comment to inform the organizations and individuals who are against rotenone being used in the wilderness that there is another intact ecosystem being poisoned. Yellowstone National Park Service has begun this past summer poisoning Grayling Creek and Elk Creek inside Yellowstone National Park. There are other creeks, rivers and lakes slated to be poisoned these coming years. Of course this is to kill non-natives, yet we all know poison of any kind is not selective. I hope if you are interested you will look into this matter and make your voice heard.
Ted Williams
Ted Williams
Mar 15, 2014 07:59 AM
So Lorie, one must conclude from your post that because “poison of any kind is not selective” you are against Yellowstone Park saving fluvial Arctic grayling from extirpation in the contiguous states, that you are against Yellowstone Park saving Westslope cutthroats from extinction, that you are against Yellowstone Park saving Yellowstone cutthroats from extinction, that you are against the use of rotenone in the Sierras to prevent extinction of the mountain yellow-legged frog, that you are fine with letting yellow star thistle destroy millions of acres of wildlife habitat in the Northwest, that you are fine with letting Brazilian pepperbush destroy millions of acres of wildlife habitat in the Southeast, that you are fine with letting cancer patients tough it out without non-selective poisons (id est, chemotherapy), that when you are sick you eschew all antibiotics because they kill a few of your good bugs, too….

Is it your contention that poisons aren’t supposed to be used in wilderness? If so, where did you acquire that misinformation? From Wilderness Watch? That outfit doesn’t “watch” anything that’s underwater or written in the Wilderness Act.

Yeah, rotenone in fisheries management kills a few nontargets. But it is usually the only tool available to save imperiled fish. By the way, all the nontargets bounce quickly back and often do better than they did before treatment because they don’t have to cope with predators they didn’t evolve with.

Andrew V Sipocz
Andrew V Sipocz
Mar 15, 2014 01:35 PM
I think there's a lot of misunderstanding about invasive, non-native species and why biologists often try to remove them. Even among biologists. Why are they so bad? The explanation given by field techs and others as to why they are trying to kill something often fails to convince the audience that what is occurring is a good thing.

Small pox was an invasive species brought to North America with European colonization that decimated a population that had no evolutionary history with it and so no immunity. People have a hard time realizing what an incredible barrier the oceans are to organisms. Life on the earth's continents coevolves almost as if each were on separate planet. When we bring species in from off-continent we are dooming native species and reducing the planet's biodiversity and thus resilience. And these invasive species may later die off when their parasites and diseases catch up to them with later introductions - the European honey bee is an example of this and its demise is leaving a huge, unfilled hole in our need for pollinators since the honeybee killed off many native pollinators, many never described (the honeybee was introduced in the 1500's). A review of the extinctions that occurred when North and South America naturally joined together, slowly over millions of years, is eye-opening. As is a map I recently saw that described each oceanic transit by a ship or plane with a thin line. The map showed the continents joined with essentially solid bridges of transits and thus invasive species introductions are overtaking habitat loss as the greatest cause of extinction on earth.
Erik Schlenker-Goodrich
Erik Schlenker-Goodrich
Mar 15, 2014 01:54 PM
Dear Mr. Williams:

I'd say that I'd like to have a beer with you to discuss this issue, but it's quite clear that you have no interest in reasoned, respectful dialogue. Instead, it seems that you simply desire to polarize a complicated scientific issue and, in the process, do yourself and this issue a disservice. But I'll say this: it's my 20+ years of academic and professional experience that restoration work is rarely simple. If you are truly interested in understanding the work we did in this case (which, frankly, I doubt) I'd encourage you to look at the official public record, filed with the court. Specifically, this is what the Silver King Creek plaintiffs asserted in their opening brief:

"Application of rotenone could also impact the terrestrial food web through loss and alteration of the aquatic food web for an indeterminate time. RAR 297; RAR 1784; RAR 941; RAR 23253 (stating that “[w]hen a food source of such importance and magnitude as aquatic invertebrates is changed or extinguished in an area, even temporarily, it can have repercussions in many parts of the food web”). Emerging adult insects are a major food source for many terrestrial insects, birds (including yellow warbler and Williamson’s sapsucker), amphibians, mammals (especially bats), reptiles, etc., but would be eliminated from the system after poisoning. Id. Subsequent major shifts in invertebrate communities, in quality, quantity, and timing of emergence can be expected. RAR 941. Thus, the loss and alteration of large portions of emerging insects for several years during and following poisoning of miles of stream would be a major impact to riparian animals. Id.

These "RAR" cites are cites to opinions of scientists with Ph.Ds in relevant disciplines. Seems reasonable to me their views are worthwhile for consideration by agencies before they decide to dump neurotoxins into a river. And again, restoration work is tricky, which is why compliance with environmental laws is important--to ensure a reasoned and informed decision-making process. A federal judge agreed with that perspective. (note: I'd also suggest that your ill-advise characterization of this federal judge as "clueless" reveals less about them and more about your own noxious, polarizing writing style).

In any event, what you are ultimately missing—on purpose it seems—is that the focus of efforts related to Silver King Creek were based on what a special wilderness stream it is and the comprehensive values that wilderness involves (which does not fixate on a single species but, rather, the whole ecological system within that wilderness and how it should be managed). And, that if an agency is going to dump neurotoxins like rotenone into it, it should know precisely not only what it intends to kill (the very same fish planted historically by the same agency that later doesn’t like them, because it wants to ultimately create a new fishery for a different prized fish), but also what it may kill that lives there and lives there as well. There’s a long legacy of humanity thinking that it’s doing a good thing when in reality, it causes a myriad of nasty, unintended consequences. You’d be wise to consider that truth.

I know, nuance is never easy, but since you apparently consider yourself a “reporter,” I figure someday you may get there.

Quite sincerely,

Erik Schlenker-Goodrich
Executive Director
Western Environmental Law Center
Jason Storm
Jason Storm
Dec 16, 2015 03:50 PM
The assertion that many terrestrial species consume winged adult invertebrates of terrestrial origin is correct. If you have peer-reviewed evidence that rotenone projects have any population level effects on riparian-obligate species, please produce this.
Jason Storm
Jason Storm
Dec 17, 2015 07:50 AM
The other reason the argument that the reduction in invertebrates will have long-lasting effects on terrestrial or riparian so species of wildlife fails, is that disturbance events that devastate aquatic invertebrate population occur naturally, and regularly. Big floods, wildfire, and debris flows all have a devastating effect on aquatic invertebrates. Fortunately, these assemblages have evolved in disturbance driven ecosystems, and the populations recover rapidly. As the assessment for Soda Butte Creek correctly points out, with backing from peer-reviewed scientific research, invertebrate communities recover naturally, and rapidly. Biomass recovers in weeks with recolonization of multivoltine species such as chironomids and Baetis. Univoltine or semivoltine species are back to pretreatment levels the following year. I learned this decades ago when I took a course in stream ecology as an undergrad How your PhD scientists concluded otherwise is beyond puzzling, as the scientific literature clearly refutes this.

By the way, Williamson's sapsuckers, being members of the woodpecker family, do not consume invertebrates of aquatic origin. Moreover, they are residents of mature coniferous forests, and drill for insect larvae in the bark of trees. My bird-crazy 10 year old granddaughter knows this. Really, look at their bills, and tell me how they are evolved to capture insects on the wing. I can't believe you go to court with "science" that a 10-year old can shoot down. Just who are your PhD scientists. And please cite the studies they used to come to these conclusions.

Maybe you should tag along on a rotenone project. yes, seeing dead fish is disturbing, and you'll see dead stone flies as well. But if you stick around for a day or to, you'll see hatches of caddis, mayflies, and midges. You'll see dippers zipping around. And yes, you see those riparian-obligate Williamson's sapsuckers soaring around, snatching midges and Baetis from the air with their hammer-like bills. Or you won't, because that's a ridiculously false premise, but it does paint an amusing, physically impossible image of a bark feeding bird behaving like a swallow.
Ted Williams
Ted Williams
Mar 15, 2014 02:43 PM
Erik:
Facts you don’t want to know do not equal disrespectful dialogue. And the “polarization,” alas, has been the work of your outfit and the outfits you have represented in your expensive, failed litigation on rotenone use in Silver King Creek. All are too lazy and too arrogant to learn about rotenone and imperiled fish recovery as mandated by the Endangered Species Act. I have read, in fact quoted, the absurd brief of your unsuccessful plaintiffs. All the things you and they claim might have happened have NEVER happened in modern fish recovery. One of the “scientists with Ph.Ds” that supplied you with those “opinions” has no professional experience with aquatic systems, but is an alleged MD who does not practice. She claims she’s so allergic to all chemicals she has to sleep in a car and testifies between inhalations from a gas mask. Another falsely and publicly accused Trout Unlimited and the managers of genetically contaminating pure Lahontan cutthroat habitat and when I caught her refused to apologize or retract--just as you have refused to apologize for or retract your outfit’s published rubbish about rotenone that I have twice quoted here. There is no evidence that the “agency” planted aliens in the treatment area--another piece of rubbish you and your failed litigants keep recycling. In your previous post you claim that “We certainly share in the desire to restore native trout.” And at the same time you stridently oppose what in almost all cases, including the case of Silver King Creek, is the ONLY tool available to restore native trout. I urge you to learn about native-fish recovery, to learn about rotenone, to stop squandering your contributors’ funds, to stop blocking enforcement of the Endangered Species Act, and to stop threatening the existence on this planet of wilderness icons like native trout.
Lorie Swanson
Lorie Swanson
Mar 15, 2014 05:26 PM
Oh Ted. How sad it is when someone in your position as a writer doesn’t even bother to ask the important questions before jumping to absurd conclusions. Is this how you write all your articles?

Before concluding what my beliefs are and bashing me for simply stating the fact “that poison is not selective”, you had an opportunity to ask me a simple question: “How do I feel about saving endangered species?” Instead, you chose to make all sorts of crazy conclusions about what I think. Isn’t the job of someone managing a comment board, like yourself, to keep the people who post there on topic? Did you know that the first thing educators teach their young students is to ask questions first, and to never jump to conclusions, and that this is also the general rule for making assumptions in life as well?

As for me, I am only responding to your comment to reaffirm my statement that poison isn’t selective. The conclusions you jumped to are only assumptions as I never said in my original comment that I didn’t want endangered species to be saved. I simply requested for people to make their voice heard in regards to rotenone being used in Yellowstone National Park and in the wilderness.

So, since you stated several inaccurate conclusions, let me set the record straight, so you don’t have to come up with any more of your incorrect conclusions. Your conclusions in your comment to me are simply your conclusions. They aren’t right, and to be quite honest some of them downright disgust me.

Here is what I believe. I support endangered species of all kinds being saved from extinction. I do NOT support the use of poison to save them because science has proven poison isn’t selective. Every animal in that ecosystem will use that water after the poison was dumped into it. When Yellowstone poisoned Grayling Creek with rotenone this past summer there were signs posted by them way downriver to stay out of the creek and to not drink the water. Most people can read the signs, but go ahead and conclude, because I know you like to do that, that since the animals can’t read, they drank, fed and bathed in that creek. If the poison rotenone is so safe, why the sign?

If someone gave you a glass of clear looking water and told you it was taken from several miles downstream from where Yellowstone officials dumped in rotenone would you drink it? Remember, there is a sign telling you that you shouldn’t. So Ted, one could conclude you wouldn’t drink it, but I don’t know you that well, and maybe you would, so I won’t jump to that conclusion. I also won’t jump to that conclusion because in your article you say rotenone is “a short-lived, easily neutralized, organic poison rendered from tropical plants.” Plus, what did you call the rest of us who think rotenone is a dangerous chemical? Oh yes, you said we are
“chemophobic environmentalists, who refuse to learn about it.” So, that being said, who knows what YOU would do. I won’t dare jump to any conclusions about that. I just know that I wouldn’t drink it.
This being said, the fact is the animals will drink it and will use that water because it’s there and they need it. They have no choice. So, to make myself perfectly clear, I don’t think dumping rotenone or any poison into waters in a pristine wilderness, especially a national park, is the answer to saving endangered species, as it endangers all species including us.

As for all your other conclusions I kindly advise you to check the facts before making incorrect conclusions. Just because you “conclude” something doesn’t mean it is correct. You should know that as a writer, and if you do, you didn’t practice it very well in your comment to me.

So, getting back to the real issue. For anyone reading these comments I ask that you please make your voice heard, whatever your opinion is on the issue of rotenone in Yellowstone to your members of congress and the National Park Service of Yellowstone. There is a great article in the March/April 2014 issue of the magazine American Angler called “The Yellowstone Mandate”, by Jessica McGlothlin that informs readers of both sides of this important issue. Also, I posted a link below that lists the rivers slated to be poisoned with rotenone in Yellowstone these coming summers. It can be found in Jackson Hole News and Guides. Article is titled, “Trout targeted in plan to restore native fish”, by Mike Koshmrl.
http://e-edition.jhnewsandg[…]e-fish-21082013029017.shtml

Also two other links below from other High Country News writers.

Rare Native Fish Found In Utah, Then Poisoned By Mistake, by Jeff Rice
https://www.hcn.org/issues/48/1483/print_view

Wilderness Isn’t A Fish Farm, by George Nickas
http://www.hcn.org/wotr/14783/print_view

This is all I have to say on this matter in this comment board.

I will not be responding further, regardless of any further remarks or “conclusions”.
Jason Storm
Jason Storm
Dec 16, 2015 04:00 PM
Lorie, look at the information on the concentration, toxicity and persistence of rotenone presented here: http://fwp.mt.gov/[…]/pn_0026.html. I would not drink water within 45 minutes travel time downstream of a detox station for a rotenone project. But my concern would be Giardia, not rotenone. I would need to drink 10s of thousand of gallons of water for rotenone to be a problem.

Being concerned about the release of toxic chemicals into waters is valid and important, but aside from fish, and a proportion of the resilient macroinvertebrate populations, rotenone toxicity does not present a problem to any other organisms.

If you're looking for a legitimate water quality concern, consider fracking. The potential for this activity to contaminate ground and surface water with really nasty hydrocarbons and salts is real.
Ted Williams
Ted Williams
Mar 15, 2014 07:43 PM
Lorie:
Your statement: “I do NOT support the use of poison to save [endangered species] because science has proven poison isn’t selective.” So you’re all in favor of saving creatures like the Paiute cutthroat trout, the Westslope cutthroat trout, the Yellowstone cutthroat trout, the fluvial Arctic grayling, and the myriad endangered species threatened by invasive plants…. You’re just against the ONLY tools available for saving them because, as you correctly note, all poisons are non-selective. Okaaaay…. And to back up this nonsense you offer a harangue from, of all people, the chemophobe who runs Wilderness Watch, who thinks fish don’t count because he can’t see them and who hasn’t even bothered to read the Wilderness Act.

Read this. Maybe you’ll learn something: http://www.flyrodreel.com/[…]/ann-and-nancy-war
Dale Lockwood
Dale Lockwood Subscriber
Mar 16, 2014 07:35 AM
I have seen rotenone work and after a certain amount of time there is zero trace left over from its use. I have noticed how the local human residents 99% of the time were pleased with the results. Ted Williams is 100% right in supporting its use.
We should be more worried about habitat degradation and why we got in this situation in the first place.
Todd Wilkinson
Todd Wilkinson Subscriber
Mar 17, 2014 09:20 AM
Folks: the bottom line is that, in an age of climate change, difficult decisions must be made to save native species, particularly if we all agree and recognize that natives play vital niche roles in determining whether the rich web of life persists in its complicated form or unravels and leaves us with a planet of non-native weeds. A fish is not just a fish. Natives matter. Ted Williams is one of America's finest environmental writers. He tells things like they are and is courageous enough to state the unsavory realities of issues that make some people feel uncomfortable. Do we want to preserve native species or not, and if we do then restoration of compromised ecosystems is our only hope. As unappetizing as the use of rotenone is for some people, it is the only tool that works and science shows its negative effects are ephemeral (short lasting). I too have written about it, poured over the best available science, and arrive at the same conclusions as my colleague Ted Williams. I also refer to rotenone in my new book, "Last Stand: Ted Turner's Quest to Save a Troubled Planet" in which rotenone was successfully used to eradicate non-native fish from dozens of miles of a waterway in order to establish an unprecedented refugia for imperiled westslope cutthroat trout on Turner's ranch in Montana, the Flying D. A committed environmentalist whose foundation has supported over 3500 different conservation organizations, Turner himself was initially skeptical but was won over by facts. The incredible amount of added knowledge that was yielded has helped perfect the application of rotenone at other proposed projects. Was it controversial? Yes. It survived court challenges based the credibility of peer-reviewed science and in southwest Montana was supported by a wide range of environmental/conservation organizations. Any segments of the aquatic community that were impacted during the short span of rotenone treatment have recovered. The American Fisheries Society, no slouch when it comes to defending the science of aquatic ecosystems, highlighted the project and gave the architects who designed it (Carter Kruse of the Turner Endangered Species Fund, Pat Clancy of the Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks Department and others) one of the highest awards for professionalism. I would encourage the opponents of rotenone to have a look at what successful treatment looks like on the ground and to visit with those who designed the projects. They are all forthcoming and have nothing to hide.
Jason Storm
Jason Storm
Dec 16, 2015 04:01 PM
Right on brother!
Denver Bryan
Denver Bryan
Mar 17, 2014 10:21 AM
Ted William’s HCN article, ‘When Poisoning Is The Solution’ presented a good overview of the situation facing one particular threatened species ( Paiute cutthroat trout) and the onerous delays some groups were able to put in place to hinder recovery efforts. After reading comments critical of Mr. William’s reporting, I’m struck by the naiveté of some of these obstruction-oriented folks. While their efforts are probably well-intentioned, they appear totally unable or unwilling to see the bigger picture and instead choose to selectively apply only ‘pieces of the science’ when trying to make their case. Sometimes they sound more like a branch of the HSUS than a credible environmental group. Fortunately, they weren’t successful in their efforts here. Unfortunately, the time-consuming and expensive delays that such groups often bring about prevent good conservation work from being done in a timely manner.

   
Ted Williams
Ted Williams
Mar 17, 2014 01:06 PM
Thanks Todd: I consider Ted Turner one of the major environmental heroes of our generation.
What I find even more discouraging than the ignorance of the chemophobes is the ignorance of sportsmen. The westslope cutthroat is endangered in fact, if not by official decree. But the most ambitious westslope-restoration project ever proposed was derailed for years by a sportsmen-endorsed property-rights group called the Public Lands Access Association. The group's president, Bill Fairhurst, threatened to sue the state in federal court on the grounds that it would "pollute" public water with the rotenone (any antimycin) with which it planned to remove the brook trout, rainbows, and hybrid cutthroats that infested 77 miles of Upper Cherry Creek, in southwest Montana. What really bugged the association and its allies was that 85 percent of the project area is owned by Ted Turner (who wound up picking up the cost). Like the previous owner, Turner doesn't invite the public onto his land, although the Montana access law permits anglers to wade Cherry Creek.
When Fly Rod & Reel magazine, where I serve as conservation editor, recognized Turner's commitment to native trout by making him its Angler of the Year, we got the biggest blizzard of nastygrams we've seen in our 35-year history. I had "a political agenda," I'd done it for money, I was a "snot nose," a "moron," a "nasty bully," a "nature Nazi," an acolyte of "Hanoi Jane," an espouser of "vitriolic leftist environmentalism." "I see your magazine is lining up lock-step with the wild-animal-rights fly-fishing crowd that Left Wing Ted [Turner] leads and which appears to be taking over the leadership of Trout Unlimited and the Federation of Fly Fishers . . ." wrote one reader. "I am completely opposed to the wild-at-any-cost perspective of this left-wing animal-rights crowd and to wit will . . . politically align myself with anti-wild-fish groups and politicians." All this despite the fact that I have NOTHING to do with selecting the angler of the year.
Preserving Cherry Creek's alien and mongrel trout was the priority of most readers we heard from. The fishing was already good so why change species? Anglers had been programmed by Outdoor Life magazine which attacked the project with an article rife with misinformation entitled "Playing God on Cherry Creek." Then, in a grotesque mime of fairness, the editors invited readers to vote for or against making Cherry Creek a sanctuary for westslope cutthroats. Surprise, surprise: 98 percent voiced opposition.
During the alleged pollution of upper Cherry Creek with rotenone (which the Western Environmental Law Center and the crackpots it represented say kills everything in, on, over or near treated water) the managers observed the most sensitive invertebrate in the Cherry Creeek watershed, a species of caddis, happily scavenging poisoned trout.
Doug Pineo
Doug Pineo Subscriber
Mar 18, 2014 03:28 PM
Here in Washington, rotenone has been used for decades to manage lakes for recreational fishing, mostly for replacing non-native spiny ray, carp and tench (non-native cyprinids), with non-native, plastic hatchery trout. I worked at the current agency's predecessor, and wrote the programmatic EIS for the "lake rehabilitation program". I was always skeptical about rotenone, mostly because no one in Washington was asking about its impact on native fishes, like lacustrine sculpins and red-sided shiners in our scabrock lakes. But, over 4 decades of ongoing participation and scrutiny, I've learned that rotenone does not extirpate sculpins and red-sided shiners from our lakes. Whether the cost is worth the effort in today's super-constrained resource agency budgetary environment remains open for debate. However, as a tool for restoring native biodiversity, for example Paiyute cutthroat trout in Silver King Creek, or yellow-legged frogs in Sierra lakes, rotenone is a legitimate.

I remember well the controversy about removing ALL of the remaining California condors from the wild over 20 years ago, in a last ditch effort to save the species through propagation and release into suitable habitats. Some environmental advocates wanted to let the species wink out "in dignity". Fran Hammerstrom and Rachel Carson have to be looking down from the star road now with smiles on their faces, as wild progeny of released, propagated condors are soaring over the canyons of Arizona and California. About half of all the California condors in the world, (and there are about 10 times as many now as when the last wild birds were brought into captivity) are flying free in the wild. The comparison with using rotenone on behalf of Paiyute cutthroat is that we owe these species a thoughtful but dynamic intervention. We owe them the opportunity to persist and evolve in the changing world.
Edwin Pister
Edwin Pister
Mar 18, 2014 03:39 PM
I am a retired California Department of Fish and Wildlife aquatic biologist who has worked since 1959 to recover the California golden trout from the impacts of introduced brown trout. When we first learned of the extent of this brown trout invasion into the South Fork Kern River (where they evolved), the brown trout outnumbered the goldens in a ratio of about 100:1. The goldens (California's state fish) were nearly gone. Happily (from the golden trout's perspective) this recovery was started back in the 1970s before the use of rotenone became so controversial, and I was able to use rotenone to remove brown trout. I can safely say that had I not been able to use rotenone, the California golden trout would now be extinct. I wrote a major paper on this work which is available on the California Department of Fish and Wildlife website.

During this time I was guided by the philosophy of Ben Franklin in 1770:"My rule, in which I have always found satisfaction, is, never to turn aside in public affairs through views of private interest, but to go straight forward in doing what appears to me right at the time, leaving the consequences with Providence." I guess this is where we are now. A colleague in Minnesota, writing on this subject, likened rotenone to being the only tool left in his toolbox to do a very difficult job. One uses it only when one has to and there is no available alternative. At the age of 85, I view the South Fork Kern River brown trout eradication as one of my better conservation achievements. Phil Pister
Ted Williams
Ted Williams
Mar 18, 2014 03:52 PM
Doug: I completely agree. While rotenone use for imperiled fish recovery is essential, rotenone use for proliferation of plastic, alien trout is at best a questionable use of resources even when the target fish are also aliens. Maybe it’s defensible; but I’d never defend it. And in the age of ecological illiteracy among fisheries managers rotenone was grossly abused (there’s still plenty of ecological illiteracy among the public and NGOs, as some of the comments here illustrate). Maybe the worst example of past rotenone abuse was the poisoning of native humpback chubs and squawfish in Utah’s Green River to make way for alien trout. But managers have seen the light. Now, in the Colorado River, they are killing the alien trout (though not with rotenone) to make way for humpback chubs and squawfish. Enlightened sportsmen like Trout Unlimited staffers are all for this trout control. Here’s what past TU president Charles Gauvin told me when I wrote about Colorado River trout control for Fly Rod & Reel: “If we fight this, what will we say to Walleyes Unlimited when they complain about some coho recovery program in Oregon? Let's grow up. This is a problem we have to live with in these altered habitats where trout are a mitigation species. If the science is good, what business have we to be complaining about efforts to save a native species?”

Ted Williams
Ted Williams
Mar 18, 2014 04:24 PM
Phil: It’s great to hear from you. HCN readers should also know that golden trout are not the only fish you saved from extinction.

On August 18, 1969 Phil Pister held the world's total population of Owens pupfish in two buckets. To save this fish he and his California Fish and Game colleagues had to build a refuge by damming a small stream and rotenoning out the largemouth bass, carp and bluegill. Today that would be politically impossible. Even back then he got a nasty letter from a snail fancier who fretted about snails getting poisoned from the two-acre impoundment. Since then anglers have continually slipped bass back into one of the refuges. They've done it "dozens of times," says Pister. "Each time Fish and Game removes most of the bass with electro-shockers and spear guns, since the impoundment is only about one acre. But it's extremely labor intensive. The local attitude is 'My granddaddy used to catch bass here and by Gawd I'm gonna do it, too.'"

Phil: God bless you for giving these fish back to the world. As I write I am looking at the chapter you wrote in the signed book you gave me: “Battle Against Extinction--Native Fish Management in the American West.” A must read for everyone here.
William L Baker
William L Baker Subscriber
Mar 18, 2014 05:24 PM
Ted, even though I would always side with saving an endangered species, and I understand many of the arguments you are making, there is some moral dilemma involved and considerable sadness that we were faced with this situation. Even if you perceive unfairness or worse in your opponents, the opportunity for unexpected humility and respect from the victor is always an option to consider in these necessary and important conflicts over a messed up world. I see this at times in some notable sports figures, and have to wonder how in these people it may arise.
Ted Williams
Ted Williams
Mar 18, 2014 07:59 PM
William:
Plenty of sadness, no “moral dilemma.” And why do you imagine that I or any advocate of imperiled fish are “victors.” Sure, we finally prevailed on Silver King Creek but only after an exhausting, decade-old battle that cost managers hundreds of thousands of dollars and man hours that could have gone into other important fish and wildlife restoration. And the irrational, duplicitous war against rotenone in fisheries management (applied at less than 50 parts per BILLION) is hardly going well elsewhere in the nation. Sorry I can’t muster up “respect” for a law firm and litigants that can consistently lie to the public with statements like: “Unfortunately, the chemical [rotenone] does not just kill the fish in the water but the entire ecosystem, including turtles, snakes, frogs, birds, terrestrials, insects and other animals that live in or drink from the poisoned water.”
Alexander Mensing
Alexander Mensing Subscriber
Mar 18, 2014 08:03 PM
Wow. The comments section of this article gets at the kinds of divisions that undermine the unity of people with similar good intentions time and time again. I didn't realize there was such a huge debate behind rotenone. My childhood fishing buddy spent a few summers working for the BLM restoring some of the streams where we used to fish on desert camping trips in Nevada. He certainly had mixed feelings about it, but I don't recall him ever noticing any ecosystems being ruined.

I hope that this kind of argument sets of alarm bells in other people's heads, too. Not because of one side or another, but because it's the kind of thing that will keep us from organizing to take care of our earth. Remember, it's the only one we've got.
Dale Lockwood
Dale Lockwood Subscriber
Mar 19, 2014 08:10 AM
As a retired Fisheries and Wildlife biologist when done correctly rotenone can create a positive outcome for the environment and certain fish species and other aquatic species.
 
Mary O'Brien
Mary O'Brien Subscriber
Apr 02, 2014 11:08 AM
In the 1980s I worked 8 years as a staff scientist for Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides, always seeking alternatives to the use of pesticides. In nearly all situations in which pesticides are used, there are non-toxic alternatives. However, there were times when I expressed approval of the use of pesticides, knowing all that I had learned re: the myriad ways different classes of pesticides kill living beings. Specifically, my approval to the use of a pesticide extended to when (1) there were no known viable alternatives to address a specific problem; (2) the pesticide was being used to re-set a native system which, with the initial stressors that caused the problem being removed, was going to maintain itself without long-term re-use of pesticides; and (c) the pesticide was not persistent. Having reviewed rotenone and fish restoration literature, I have supported the use of rotenone to restore native fish that are otherwise in a precarious position vis-a-vis extinction.

It is easier to see the temporary set-back of an aquatic system (e.g., through the use of the non-persistent, though toxic rotenone) than to see the slow, often irreversible loss of biodiversity from such activities as human housing encroachment, excessive ungulate browsing/grazing, or springs depletion due to underground mining.

With a track record of having succeeded in allowing for restoration of numerous streams to native fish that were otherwise in serious trouble from non-native fish, use of rotenone seems to be a reasonable action to take.
  
Ted Williams
Ted Williams
Apr 02, 2014 05:31 PM
Mary:
Your post lifts the spirits of all of us who work for imperiled fish. That’s exactly what we’ve been trying to get across for all these years--it’s either a quick shot of short-lived organic poison called rotenone or extirpation of imperiled fish. There are almost never alternatives. While I have much respect for Norma, I have had my issues with her and Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides re. opposition to use of herbicides to save millions of acres of wildlife habitat from such invasives as yellow-star thistle. I would be interested to hear your take on the limited use of herbicides along roadsides that I advocated back then in Audubon. What a shame that the injunction stopped it. Now all that habitat is lost forever.
Dale Lockwood
Dale Lockwood Subscriber
Apr 02, 2014 09:13 PM
As a individual who has seen rotenone work in various waters it can turn waters back into a quality habitat and restore native species. Seen a half dozen rotenone treatments on lakes and streams and none had any bad long term effects from rotenone. When used properly it is a great tool.
Jim  Brandau
Jim Brandau
Jun 25, 2015 01:43 PM
Now plans are in place to poison Soda Butte Creek for 38 miles of it's watershed. The Public Comment period just ended on 19 June 2015 and they are formulating a Decision Notice on those comments. Mr. Williams is touting the utopic wonders of a post-rotenone Soda Butte Creek that now hosts a native population of 99.5% genetically pure Yellowstone cutthroat trout that will be killed along with the non-native brook trout. Less than 1% hybridization is considered a 'core population'; 'genetically unaltered' by fish biologists. Yet, they are willing to overlook this fact and kill them all.
Edward Williams
Edward Williams
Jul 27, 2015 02:32 PM
Brandau has been conducting a failed and hopeless campaign to kill this important project to save the Lamar system from the alien brook trout that now infest Soda Butte Creek. Years of manual control with electro-fishing gear has failed. If the aliens get established in the lower system, Brandau’s beloved Yellowstone cutthroats will take a hit infinitely worse than they will from a quick rotenone shot from which they’ll more than fully recover and very quickly. Leaving a “few” brook trout, as Brandau has persistently demanded, would be like leaving a few cancer cells. An example of a watershed where brook trout were allowed to expand is the Sheilds River in Montana. Over just a decade the brook trout largely replaced Yellowstone cutthroats throughout the upper reaches of this watershed. This is not acceptable for the Lamar system. The park will be removing the brook trout from upper Soda Butte Creek so it can save all of the Yellowstone cutthroats of the entire Lamar River watershed. Following rotenone treatment the park will restock upper Soda Butte Creek with pure Yellowstone cutthroats. (The ones now in Soda Butte are, as Brandau notes, slightly introgressed.) The initial source will be Pebble Creek. The park may also take gametes from Cache Creek or other upper Lamar tributaries for reintroduction to upper Soda Butte. Upper Soda Butte will serve as a refuge for Lamar River strain of Yellowstone cutthroat.
Jim  Brandau
Jim Brandau
Jul 28, 2015 10:10 AM
Either Williams is forgetting or omitting that the Final Decision Notice from Montana Fish, WIldlife & Parks, in conjunction with Wyoming Fish & Game and Yellowstone National Park was released on 08 July 2015 and states that they have changed their initial plan to kill ALL the fish in Soda Butte Creek (SBC) to killing only the brook trout in SBC via rotenone poisoning. They are to capture, hold and restock the current resident native YCT from SBC - not kill and replace them with fish from other streams. This change is due to the 24 public comments they received in opposition to their original plan. Hardly a "failed and hopeless campaign" as Williams claims.

The current resident native YCT in SBC have tested 99.5% genetically pure and are considered a 'core population', 'genetically unaltered' according to fisheries biologists. They are deserving of protection, as mandated by law - not eradication. Williams can't seem to get this simple fact through his cranium.
Edward Williams
Edward Williams
Jul 28, 2015 09:11 PM
What Brandau can’t get through his cranium is that this project has little to do with the slightly introgressed cutthroats in Soda Butte. It’s about saving the whole Lamar system from alien brook trout. If the park has recently decided to evacuate some (obviously not all) of the resident slightly introgressed cutthroats, that’s probably okay, though I would have like to see it use 100 percent pure fish. Brandau has been haranguing for months (years) that the manual control of brook trout was working. It wasn’t. It’s not okay to leave just a few.
Jim  Brandau
Jim Brandau
Jul 30, 2015 04:33 PM
Ted, there's no "if" in YNP's plan to salvage some of the resident native Yellowstone cutthroat trout in Soda Butte Creek - it's in their 07/13/15 Categorical Exclusion Form; page 2, second paragraph. "In response to public scoping, and the concern by the public of removing native Yellowstone cutthroat trout that are genetically pure (greater than 99%), Yellowstone National Park and Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks have modified both proposals to include electroshocking of Soda Butte Creek to remove cutthroat trout prior to rotenone treatments(s). The salvaged cutthroat trout will be held within the Soda Butte Creek watershed, in tanks and/or within upper untreated tributaries, and returned to Soda Butte Creek in the areas of Cooke City and Silver Gate following the rotenone treatments(s)."

This has been my point all along, DON'T KILL A SPECIES OF CONCERN in hopes of an environmental ideal. Did you absorb their terminology for these resident Yellowstone cutthroat trout in Soda Butte Creek? "Genetically pure"! Not "mongrels" as you have incorrectly labeled them. The brook trout are basically prey for the Yellowstone cutthroat trout at this point. When you crunch the numbers from MT FWP's data you will find that 99% of the fish in Soda Butte Creek are Yellowstone cutthroat trout (326 per stream mile) and just 1% are brook trout 2.9 per stream mile).
Jason Storm
Jason Storm
Dec 16, 2015 07:48 PM
Brook trout are not prey for Yellowstone cutthroat trout (YCT). YCT are not piscovorous. They are invertivores. Knowing the tropic guild of the species being conserved is essential in their management. Erroneous statements such as this suggests a limited understanding of fisheries science and management, and a need to educate oneself before jumping into a technical debate.
Edward Williams
Edward Williams
Jul 30, 2015 04:57 PM
Yeah, yeah. Jim, I don’t keep up with the park’s plans on a week to week basis, as you do. I’m in Mass. If you say they’ve recently decided to evacuate some of the YCTs, I’ll take your word for it. And just because a biologist calls a 99-percent YCT a 100-percent YCT doesn’t make it so. “If you call a tail a leg, how many legs does a dog have?” inquired Abe Lincoln. “Five? No four, because calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg.” I’d rather have a 1 percent mongrel than a ten-percent mongrel. On the other hand, I’d rather have a pure YCT than either. The feds killed a bunch of greenback cutts because they thought (wrongly) that they were one percent introgressed with Colorado River cutts. But again, the issue here is brook trout. In Soda Butte electro-shocking was not doing the job. You maintained for months (years) that it was. The only way to save the YCTs you love so much is with rotenone. And what’s your point about one percent brook trout? Would you be okay with having one percent cancer cells in your brain?
Jim  Brandau
Jim Brandau
Jul 30, 2015 06:24 PM
Ted, previously on the Fly Rod & Reel blog "Return of the native" you said to me "sorry, I'll trust the biologists". What happened to that trust? I've only been on this issue since May 2015; not years. Ted, don't YOU love the native YCT too - or do you just have a phobia about brookies? And please stop equating brook trout with cancer. I did a Medline search and couldn't find a single peer reviewed article linking Salvelinus fontinalis with cancer. Geez.
Jason Storm
Jason Storm
Dec 16, 2015 08:37 PM
Although brook trout are not literally carcinogenic, using the term metaphorically is useful. Fisheries managers are not being "phobic" of brook trout. The scientific research on the role of brook trout in the displacement of cutthroat trout provides robust evidence of the threat they pose. Instead of doing a Medline search, look at the fisheries literature. A review of peer-reviewed research by Dr. Kurt Fausch from Colorado State University, Dr. Doug Petersen with the U.S. Fish and Wlidlife Service, and Dr. Brad Shepard at Montana State University is the tip of the ice berg of research. Dunham, Frissell, Rieman, McMahon are other highly qualified fisheries researchers investigating brook trout displacing cutthroat trout. All are PhD level scientists publishing in highly respected peer-reviewed journals such as Transactions of the American Fisheries Society, North American Journal of Fisheries Management, and Conservation Biology. This voluminous tome of research universally acknowledges the extreme threat brook trout pose to nearly every subspecies of cutthroat trout. Now, if you have credentials that match these renowned scientists, and have conducted your own research, or you can refute the universal conclusion that brook trout pose an extreme threat to cutthroat trout based on peer-reviewed science, then you would certainly make a name for yourself in the field of fisheries science, and you would save agencies from implementing expensive, unnecessary projects. If you're just a guy with an opinion, and have not researched the literature, then you may fall into the category of crackpot. The fact that you thought brook trout would provide a forage base for cutthroat trout does not lead me to believe you have a firm grasp of fisheries science. A first year undergrad in fisheries would know better.
Edward Williams
Edward Williams
Jul 30, 2015 06:34 PM
I trust the biologists when they say they need to eliminate the alien brook trout to save the native Yellowstone cutthroats. You kept saying this wasn’t necessary, that they could do it with electro-fishing gear. Not. They were right, and you were wrong. The cancer analogy is apt. A few brook trout left in the system, as you prescribed, would metastasize into growth that would eliminate your beloved native Yellowstone cutthroats.
Jim  Brandau
Jim Brandau
Jul 31, 2015 11:01 AM
Here's the latest coverage out of Jackson Hole News. http://www.jhnewsandguide.c[…]35b2.html#user-comment-area
Edward Williams
Edward Williams
Jul 31, 2015 04:13 PM
Thanks Jim. Catch 'em up.
Jason Storm
Jason Storm
Dec 16, 2015 04:20 PM
For those who value the recreational fishing values of Soda Butte Creek and the Lamar River watershed, they should be ecstatic about the plans to eradicate brook trout. The thermal regime in this high elevation area is ideal for propagation and growth of cutthroat trout, but is too cold to promote the growth of brook trout. I'd rather catch a 15 inch cutthroat than a bunch of dinky brookies. Really, the displacement of cutthroat by brook trout isn't just a native species issue. It's a quality of angling issue.