A plan to restore Yellowstone cutthroat trout into Soda Butte Creek has been approved for implementation.
Yellowstone National Park, partnering with the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks and Wyoming Game & Fish Departments, as well as the U.S. Forest Service, will be working together on the initiative. The project comes as a part of the 2010 Native Fish Conservation Plan, which seeks to boost native populations while working simultaneously to remove non-native fish species and protect existing native fish populations from disease and climate change.
Under the plan, park officials will use an EPA-approved piscicide (rotenone) to remove brook trout from Soda Butte Creek, upstream of Ice Box Canyon. Prior to treating Soda Butte Creek with rotenone, officials will use electroshock fishing to capture existing Yellowstone cutthroat trout and move them into an area near the Soda Butte Creek watershed. Then, when treatment is finished, the cutthroat will be returned to parts of the creek around Cooke City and Silver Gate, MT.
Before the plan went into effect, a draft Categorical Exclusion was prepared pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act. Public comment was sought, and the Park received 56 comments on the measure, including comments on the potential negative impact rotenone treatment might have on cutthroat populations. These comments and critiques were factored into the final plan.
The CE qualifies the framework approved in the previous Native Fish Conservation Plan/Environmental Assessment, completed in 2010, which includes a Finding of No Significant Impact signed in May 2011.
For more information on the plan, you may read the final documentation concerning the Soda Butte Creek CE at the National Park Service Planning, Environment, and Public Comment website.
Yellowstone cutthroat trout are the only trout species endemic to the Greater Yellowstone Region and originally dominated Yellowstone waterways. They are not only ecologically important, Yellowstone cutthroat trout are also beloved angler catches. Throughout the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem however, their numbers have declined, due to the arrival of nonnative trout species, hybridization, and habitat degradation.
The Soda Butte Creek plan comes on the heels of another fish restoration program, seeking to restore Arctic grayling to Grayling Creek.