Trout have a place, but it’s not in the region’s high mountain lakes, an Idaho-based group says.
The Ecocentric Wildlands Management Institute, established last year in Moscow, opposes fire suppression and high mountain lake fish stocking in designated wild and protected areas. “Basically, 95 percent of these (high mountain) lakes naturally evolved their ecological communities without fish present,” said Michael Murray, co-founder and board member. “Fish stocking of these lakes is deliberately introducing a highly predacious alien species into a delicate and fragile ecosystem.”
Murray, 28, is a doctoral student at the University of Idaho studying the effects of fire suppression in wilderness areas and national parks. “While fire suppression is certainly the most extensive ecological impact on these lands, we believe fish stocking is the most intensive impact,” he said.
The planted fish prey on a variety of amphibians and insects that have not evolved to handle the intense predation, he said.
The group is lobbying to eliminate stocking of high mountain lakes in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness Area. But Murray says, from an ecological point of view, the group’s opinion pertains to all high mountain lakes. This summer, Murray and fellow board members Greg Golberg, Andrew Boyd, and Dan Ritzmond intend to submit a proposal to Idaho state officials and the U.S. Forest Service calling for a gradual phase out of high mountain lake fish stocking in the Selway-Bitterroot.
“We’re calling for a stoppage of aerial plants within three years realizing the existing fish are likely to persist naturally at least another decade,” said Murray.
Murray insists the institute is not a collection of people with unreasonable ideals.
“We intend to work through all the correct channels and above board in this effort,” he said. “Last November we met with the Idaho Outfitters and Guides Association and the Idaho Backcountry Horsemen. While they didn’t support our views they understood and appreciated us touching base with them.”
Eliminating fish stocking in high lakes will require broad-based cooperation, Goldberg acknowledged.
MEMO: * Info: Ecocentric Wildlands Management Institute, P.O. Box 4031, Moscow, ID 83843.