Trout Unlimited Criticizes New Federal Policy

Just how gullible do the policy-makers think we are to swallow this kind of science?

Source: Trout Unlimited – Press Releases 2005 – Trout Unlimited.

Trout Trout Unlimited (TU) said that a new National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries (NOAA Fisheries) policy would lead to more controversy and lawsuits, and ultimately diminish the protection and hinder the recovery of Pacific salmon and steelhead.

The policy requires that salmon and steelhead born and reared in hatcheries and then released be considered alongside wild fish born and reared in rivers when weighing the need for ESA protection. Those considerations then become integral in assessing the overall health of a stock, ESA listing decisions, strategies for recovering imperiled stocks and more. Trout Unlimited said today NOAA’s announcement reflects a policy reversal that undermines decades of recovery strategies and actions targeted toward wild fish.

TU said the implications of combining wild and hatchery fish to determine protection levels is wrong-headed, and runs afoul of the judgment of legions of fisheries scientists who have examined the question of wild-versus-hatchery fish management.

"The conclusion of the vast majority of fisheries science’s finest minds who’ve studied this problem is that hatchery fish and wild fish are different animals and must be managed accordingly, especially under the auspices of the Endangered Species Act," said Dr. Jack Williams, senior scientist for Trout Unlimited. "It’s puzzling that NOAA Fisheries would issue a policy that contradicts the advice of its own scientists."

Jeff Curtis of TU pointed out that "the problem is that if you include hatchery fish – which in fact can be a threat to wild fish – in determining which fish qualify for protection under the Endangered Species Act, then you will always have trouble determining whether and how those hatchery fish will be protected. It is not only bad science, it is also goofy policy."

Under the new policy, for example, fish raised in concrete hatcheries and spawned in white plastic buckets from over 160 hatcheries which swim alongside wild fish will be protected under the ESA.

Slough Creek Whitewater

The Lamar Valley around Slough Creek in Yellowstone National Park (map) is widely known for its beauty and wildlife. As seen from the gravel road leading to the campground, Slough Creek wanders through grassy meadows, slow and deep. It is trout heaven.

Twenty years ago Barry Rhodes and I spent several wonderful days trout fishing on lower Slough Creek. I remember getting a citation from a park ranger for violating the campground rules — I left a water bottle on top of our rental car all night (it is grizzly country).

Ann and I secured a campsite on Monday, June 20, and talked to the campground host about hiking trails. I mentioned that we had just looked at the amazing whitewater on the Lamar River (about a mile west of the Slough Creek road); we saw unrunable rapids for more than half a mile. The water was high because Yellowstone had abundant snowfall this winter and warm weather was melting the snow at high altitudes, loading the streams with cold, silty water. The campground host said that Slough Creek had whitewater also — up the fisherman’s trail from the campground.

We started hiking. It was easy walking on almost level ground. Slough Creek was wide, up to 30 yards across in many places — smooth, cold, and deep. After about 45 minutes of walking, we saw that we were approaching  an incline, and we heard the sweet music of whitewater in the distance. As we rounded a bend, we could see the rise in the stream bed and rapids (click on the first photo below).

As the trail progressed upstream, the hike got steeper. And as the terrain got steeper, the rapids got louder and more spectacular. Each of the photos below is in sequence as we climbed the increasingly steep trail. For photo 7 I jumped out onto a huge boulder in the middle of the stream to get the a shot of the rapids upstream.

The sound and energy of the snowmelt rushing down the side of this beautiful mountain was wonderful to behold. The power of the rushing water was invigorating (often called the negative ion effect) and made the hike even more enjoyable.

The trout in the slow water in the meadows below are beneficiaries of the turbulence from these rapids. Trout live in clean, cold water with  lots of dissolved oxygen, and these rapids both cool the water and oxygenate the water. Speaking as a kayaker, I saw continuous Class 4 and 5 rapids for almost a mile.

As we approached the top of the ridge, we lost the fisherman’s trail in a huge boulder garden. Thousands of boulders covered the landscape from streamside on our left to the top of the mountain on our right. We tried to cross the boulder garden near the stream and encountered huge boulders  requiring dangerous moves, so we backed off. We went about 300 yards up the slope, hoping the move above and around the boulder garden, but again encountered dangerous situations suited only for rock climbers. We went back down to streamside to review our options.

I was able to get a good view of the big rapids at the top of the ridge. When I tried to get a photo, I discovered that the batteries in the digital camera had expired. Then we found an elk skull with a huge antlers stuck in the driftwood at the high water level. I learned a hard lesson by getting caught without spare batteries because I would have liked to brought back photos of the elk antlers and the big rapids.

I highly recommend this hike if you enjoy beautiful scenery and rushing whitewater. You can see the trail and topography by clicking on the map image below. The leftmost red flag near the Campground marks where we began the hike. The next red flag along the Pack Trail is end of the whitewater. The third red flag is where we turned back due to rugged terrain. There’s another trail on the map just south of the campground that goes to upper Slough Creek (but you don’t get to see the whitewater below). We’ll explore upper Slough Creek next time.

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Buffalo Fights for Survival in Yellowstone

Buffalocalfinbog0 On Tuesday morning, June 21, we left the Slough Creek campground in the Lamar Valley to drive across the top of the upper loop of Yellowstone National Park. As we passed through the Blacktail Plateau area, we saw a buffalo herd moving past a pond. It was the first significant herd of buffalo we’d seen, so we stopped to watch.

Buffalocalfinbog1 Look at the buffalo at the bottom left of the first photo (click to enlarge). She’s moving in the opposite direction from the herd. The reason she’s backtracking can the seen in the second photo – her calf apparently tried to cross the bog at the upper end of the pond and is stuck in the mud.

Buffalocalfinbog2_1 A crowd gathered in the lookout area watching the calf struggle to get out of the bog. It would swim and flail over to the bank and try to get out. It couldn’t get enough traction to get up the bank – it would slide back into the bog, gasping for breath. After several minutes it would gather enough energy to try again, with the same result. Several of the women watching had tears streaming down their faces.

Buffalocalfinbog3_1 The mother buffalo would walk away from the calf like she was going with the herd. I believe she was trying to get the calf to follow her. After the calf would struggle to get out, she would turn around and walk to the edge of the bog and bellow. Once she leaned over and licked the mud off the calf’s face.She paced back and forth in her agony about her calf’s situation.

We didn’t see how this predicament ended. Two humans could have easily pulled the calf out of the bog, but I don’t think the mother would have allowed humans to go there. I don’t know if the Park Rangers would intervene or not. We left the scene very sad.