Kalispell — Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks is seeking public input on a proposal to restore native westslope cutthroat trout in Martin Creek near Olney.
Martin Creek discharges directly into the Stillwater River above Lower Stillwater Lake. A large waterfall upstream of the confluence with the river blocks upstream fish passage. Above the falls, approximately 5 miles of stream contain an isolated population of hybridized cutthroat trout, which resulted from stocking in the 1930s.
FWP is proposing to remove these fish using a plant-derived fish toxicant called rotenone. Rotenone is routinely used in fisheries management and offers an effective means of eradicating unwanted fish species without endangering the surrounding habitat. In 2005, rotenone was successfully used to remove illegally introduced northern pike from the Martin Lakes.
After removing the hybridized fish, FWP would restock Martin Creek with native, nonhybridized westslope cutthroat trout.
FWP conducted preliminary habitat and biological surveys to assess the feasibility of this project. Based on experience from previous projects, the likelihood of successfully restoring westslope cutthroat trout to this stream is high.
Restoring, maintaining and protecting native species and their habitats are part of FWP’s strategy to conserve, protect, and enhance fish and wildlife populations, their habitats, and the public’s opportunity to enjoy them. Westslope cutthroat trout are recognized as a Species of Concern across its native range in Montana.
In the Stillwater drainage, westslope cutthroat trout have significantly declined in abundance and distribution primarily due to interactions with nonnative fish species. The introduction of nonnative rainbow and Yellowstone cutthroat trout are of particular concern because of the hybridization threat they pose to native westslope cutthroat trout populations. Competition with nonnative brook trout has also led to declines in many westslope cutthroat trout populations in the Stillwater drainage.
Currently, westslope cutthroat trout are confined to small stretches of headwater streams, usually above barriers, and lakes where they are stocked. Natural and manmade barriers, such as impassable road crossings, have protected the remaining populations from hybridization and competition.
The draft environmental assessment is published online at http://fwp.mt.gov/news/publicNotices. The public comment deadline is July 19, 2020.
Please submit comments to: Sam Bourret, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, 490 North Meridian Road, Kalispell, MT 59901, or call (406) 751-4556, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Comments can also be submitted online at http://fwp.mt.gov/news/publicNotices/publicScoping.
Media contact: Dillon Tabish, 406-751-4564, Dillon.Tabish@mt.gov