Two government fish-kill projects, different outcomes.

Brook trout caught on an olive Wolly Bugger in a high mountain lake in Wyoming’s Wind River Range.

A couple of weeks ago, a woman who lives just south of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and gets her drinking water from a well adjacent to Game Creek contacted the Alliance for the Wild Rockies with a problem. She recently discovered that the Wyoming Department of Game and Fish had officially approved a project to dump rotenone – a poison – into Game Creek on Aug. 20 to kill off non-native brook trout and reintroduce native Snake River cutthroat trout.

Rotenone not only kills brook trout, but anything and everything with gills, including aquatic insects and amphibians. The poison could also migrate into the groundwater that feeds nearby well systems. Scientists caution that rotenone is harmful to human health.

Rotenone is increasingly dumped into streams and alpine lakes by the Forest Service and state agencies in “poison and plant” projects because it is cheaper than removing non-native fish through labor-intensive electroshocking, fishing, and netting. 

Here in Montana, despite significant opposition and the threat of a lawsuit for using motorized equipment to illegally access and poison waters in the Scapegoat Wilderness Area, the Lolo National Forest and Montana’s Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks’ (MTFWP) plan to poison 67 miles of the North Fork of the Blackfoot River to reestablish native westslope cutthroat trout. Ironically, this particular stream reach was historically fishless until brook trout were planted by Montana’s Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

Back in Wyoming, the Forest Service failed to inform the public or take comments on the project as required by the National Environmental Policy Act, even though the stream was connected to waters on Forest Service land. That’s important because as the EPA has cautioned: “the persistence of rotenone can vary depending on environmental conditions.”  Because of the potential effects on humans and the deadly effect on aquatic invertebrates, agencies use a toxic chemical, potassium permanganate, to deactivate rotenone at the end of the target “stream reach.”

Rotenone doesn’t always behave the way fisheries biologists have planned. In Montana’s Cherry Creek (Ted Turner’s project), the rotenone persisted beyond the “deactivation station” and poisoned the stream all the way to the Madison River.  Because air and sunlight are needed as part of the deactivation process, once rotenone reaches groundwater, you’re essentially screwed until it’s diluted to safe concentration levels.

Potassium permanganat targets human organs including the respiratory and central nervous system, blood, kidneys, and can cause nausea, vomiting, gastrointestinal irritation and burns to the mouth and throat if ingested. It may also cause severe irritation or burns to the eye and skin and has been found to cause reproductive toxicity in laboratory animals. Deploying another toxic chemical to deactivate rotenone will certainly not return the stream to its former non-polluted condition.

Fortunately, Wyoming’s fisheries biologist was willing to listen to our concerns and our proposal for alternative ways to remove the non-native brook trout.

“In the years that we have been working on developing the rotenone project, substantive advances have been made in a novel technology for Brook Trout removal that now seems closer to availability than we predicted,” she wrote. “The new technology requires labor intensive mechanical removal (electrofishing) of Brook Trout followed by stocking of what are essentially trojan males that only produce male offspring, eventually leading to a population collapse.  After considerable discussion and investigation, we feel Game Creek may be suitable for a trial of this application in Wyoming.

“Given that another method may now be available to us for Brook Trout removal in Game Creek, we are putting plans to chemically remove the fish with rotenone on hold.

“This stream is still a high priority for us, and we intend to continue to pursue removal of the brook trout population using the best available tools.  To do this, we will need your help.  Over the course of the last year, many of you have volunteered your time to assist with electrofishing.  I would like to take you up on those offers.  As we develop our plan moving forward, I will be in touch.  In the meantime, please consider spending some time with us electrofishing on Game Creek throughout August.”  The community quickly volunteered to help and the state raised the limit to 16 brook trout per person per day.

Back in Montana, the Alliance for the Wild Rockies and Wilderness Watch are headed back federal district court to stop the trout-kill.  We filed suit against the U.S. Forest Service in Missoula, Montana, over its decision to authorize the killing with pesticides of fish previously stocked in a federal wilderness area located in the state’s northwest, saying the project is “antithetical” to the agency’s duty to preserve its wild character. In June, The U.S. Forest Service authorized MTFWP to make more than 65 helicopter landings in Scapegoat Wilderness, apply rotenone to 67 miles of stream and three lakes, and restock the waters with hatchery-reared westslope cutthroat trout, the complaint says.  https://www.reuters.com/legal/litigation/enviros-sue-park-service-over-fish-poisoning-wilderness-lake-2021-07-23/?fbclid=IwAR26vzf-ETLgcSp2uqIBvYtaDPhRnfn-6QHHy6Z6WG4EOzXz2HAgEdzxlqA

If Wyoming is using non-poisonous alternatives to restore native fish species, why does Montana persist with the North Fork of the Blackfoot project, especially when other “poison and plant” experiments have had very low success rates on flowing streams? Clearly, if Wyoming can do it, it is long past time for Montana to try other methods besides dumping poisons and toxic chemicals in our precious, clean, wilderness headwater streams.

11 thoughts on “Two government fish-kill projects, different outcomes.

  1. These poisoning techniques are a level of destructive, short-sighted madness that is hard to fathom. Who are these husks in human form that populate these insane agencies, ones that exist to “protect” nature? I suspect the staff score high on the pscience and wetiko tests. This is great news, though. Wyoming leads the way!

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    1. If these same people have no problem killing off segments of the human population they deem “useless eaters” (bad food, polluted air, lethal injections, drugs, etc.), then why should we assume that they have any qualms about destroying mother nature? Why should they hold themselves accountable for whatever damage they do (intentional or not) to the environment? And more importantly, why should they hold others responsible for doing the same things through these corporate agencies?

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  2. As hard as this is to fathom, it is something philosophers, theologians, psychologists, economists, historians and sociologists have struggled with, and IMO, generally failed to find a new synthesis that sustains all life, and our universe. Here is a thoughtful work that gets at some of the underlying philosophy and history: “The concept of alienation enables us to claim that modern human beings have become alienated or estranged from nature and need to become reconciled with it. Yet reconciliation has often been understood—notably by Hegel and Marx—as the state of being ‘at-home-with-oneself-in-the-world’, in the name of which we are entitled, perhaps even obliged, to overcome anything in nature that is alien to the human mind. This approach to alienation derives ultimately from the German Idealist philosopher J. G. Fichte.” https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10677-013-9467-7#:~:text=The%20concept%20of%20alienation%20enables%20us%20to%20maintain%20that%20in,understand%20and%20experience%20ourselves%20as

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    1. Thank you for the link, I read the abstract and notes since it is pay-walled. Lots of elements there to ponder. It reminds me of what Brazilian philosopher Augusto Cury said some years ago (2014 or earlier) about “pensamento acelerado/accelerated thinking” caused in part by cell phone/internet use and the alienation and anxiety it produces. He called it the “mal do seculo/evil of the century” in how this accelerated thinking degrades human thought, feeling and discourse; reflection is anathema, instant is better. He added that this type of syndrome is usually misdiagnosed as hyperactivity (which pharma can “help”), when it is merely overload/alienation, superficiality, addiction to constant endorphin rushes, and the like. He speculated that 1/2 of the world population will suffer side effects from this phenomenon, such as panic attacks, psychosomatic disorders, depression, anorexia, etc.; this was before “smartphones” became ubiquitous in Brazil, at least. “Humanity has taken a wrong turn, the collective is rapidly sickening…We should not try to be the richest person in the cemetery, or the most-efficient employee in a hospital bed…”
      As for Harry’s good comment, I suspect the philosophy of many employees is “it’s a good job with benefits, that someone else would do if I were not”. Indeed, they are spiritually ill and have lost the way.

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      1. As for Harry’s good comment, I suspect the philosophy of many employees is “it’s a good job with benefits, that someone else would do if I were not”. Indeed, they are spiritually ill and have lost the way.

        Thanks for the response. Yes, it’s obvious how the promise of material benefits (in this case money, which isn’t even real) can and does corrupt people internally and externally and how this caused some to “have lost the way”, as you said poignantly – that is they’ve lost any moral or logical compass that would limit the incredible damage they’re doing for the prize of monopoly money promised by their psychopathic paymasters at the top. It’s all just a sick free-for-all, one that will only end once the masses pull the plug on the whole game, which will unfortunately never happen as most are too slavishly dependent and defensive of the lie system to go against it and would rather complain about everything.

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  3. Harry,
    This may be where the positive potential of wetiko (nothing is pure evil, without an antidote) may pull us out of this shit-show. Not all of us, but “the remnant.” What comes after the darkest-dark? It’s opposite. Anyway, there’s no cause for despair, as there is always a way that hasn’t been fully explored and considered. I believe in the gradual continuation/evolution of human consciousness.

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    1. Perhaps there is hope for some (like us), but for the vast majority, there is none. Of course, not everything is gloom-and-doom (we’re far from the end of the world stage, as far as I am concerned), but it doesn’t mean there’ll be a “worldwide awakening” as some so-called “truthers” prophesized.

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      1. Totally agree with the complaining part, Harry, and got a chuckle from your nice mini-rant; most of the materially-obsessed MSM consumers I know say things like, “I hope the food is good (at this well-known restaurant which has been around for years)”, or “Hopefully there won’t be any fights about masks on my flight (which the media has pumped lately)”, with the idea that 1. I will have wasted monopoly money and stomach space, and 2. I would rather assume the worst rather than be positive and acknowledge that the media is poisoning my mind/soul/life.
        I recall a comment from years ago along the lines of, “Being an American nowadays is like being forced into a death cult.”
        I am with Steve in the long run, though, as I believe some (maybe not me and mine) will make it through this dystopian nightmare for a new day. It’s this hope that sustains me and my immediate family. We attempt to show kindness and ask questions to provoke independent thought in those around us, which sometimes works! Thanks to both of you.

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  4. It’s been done around my area too. When the harsh winter leaves the lakes so depleted of oxygen and only rapidly breeding carp survive. So they dump a rotenone batch into the lakes, and restock with game fish from state hatcheries.

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  5. Situation update on the Montana poisoning project in the Upper Blackfoot: The Forest Service/Montana FWP caved and have delayed implementation of the fish poisoning project from August 7, 2021 until May of 2022, likely because they didn’t think they could defend their action in the face of the compelling TRO (temporary restraining order) motion. The Court ordered a hearing yesterday on our PI (preliminary injunction) motion. The FS notified the court it would postpone any ground disturbing activity until after May 2022. So the case will move forward on a normal briefing schedule.

    This from the government’s latest filing to the court:

    “Pursuant to the Court’s July 24, 2021 Order, ECF No. 9, Defendants hereby
    give notice that the United States Forest Service and the State of Montana
    Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks (DFWP) have conferred and agreed to
    postpone implementation of DFWP’s North Fork Blackfoot River Native Fish
    Restoration Project. That project will not begin until after May of 2022. See
    Second Decl. Sara Mayben ¶¶ 2, 3, attached herein as exhibit 1. As a result, no
    project activities, including notching of beaver dams, release of dye, and application
    of piscicide, will occur until after May 2022. Id. ¶ 3. The only activities that will
    occur during the remainder of 2021 are the removal of supplies, materials, and
    equipment and additional assessments of the landscape to facilitate project
    implementation next year. Id. In carrying out these activities, DFWP will not use
    motorized equipment in the Project Area or elsewhere in the Wilderness.”

    Even the beavers are celebrating.

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    1. I have an image of beavers whistling through their buck teeth as they slap their tails on wet logs in unison, great news Steve!

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