Public Scoping Begins for Proposed Native Fish Preservation at Gunsight Lake
By Moosetrack Megan

Posted: October 10, 2022

WEST GLACIER, Mont. [September 27, 2022] – Glacier National Park is initiating public scoping for an environmental assessment (EA) on a proposal to remove non-native rainbow trout from Gunsight Lake and establish secure populations of native westslope cutthroat trout and bull trout.

Native westslope cutthroat trout (a state listed species of concern) in the St. Mary River drainage on the east side of Glacier National Park are at risk from hybridization with non-native fish.

The St. Mary River drainage also supports bull trout, listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and is the only drainage in the United States where bull trout are found east of the Continental Divide.

Gunsight Lake was historically fishless but stocked in 1916 and 1920-1936 with non-native fish, including rainbow trout, which can migrate downstream and hybridize with native westslope cutthroat trout. The lake is well positioned to provide secure habitat for native fish due to downstream waterfalls that block upstream non-native fish migration.

Glacier National Park is proposing to remove the non-native rainbow trout from Gunsight Lake using a fish toxicant. Following the removal of the rainbow trout, bull trout and genetically pure westslope cutthroat trout would be translocated into Gunsight Lake.

In 2019, Glacier National Park in partnership with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Glacier National Park Conservancy undertook a similar project in the Camas Creek drainage, successfully removing non-native Yellowstone cutthroat trout from Camas and Evangeline Lakes and translocating native westslope cutthroat trout and bull trout to both lakes.

The proposed action is only an initial proposal; no decision to implement any action can be made until the NEPA process, including consideration of reasonable alternatives to the proposed action, is complete. Public scoping is being conducted to identify issues, concerns, and other alternatives to evaluate in the EA. There will be another opportunity for public comment when the EA is completed.

More information on the proposed project may be found on the NPS Planning, Environment, and Public Comment (PEPC) website.  Comments can be posted on the PEPC site or sent by mail to Superintendent, Glacier National Park, Attn: Gunsight Lake EA, PO Box 128, West Glacier, MT, 59936. Comments are due by October 26, 2022.