Yellowstone biologists begin eradicating cutbows, browns in Grayling Creek.
A reclamation project that will hit the reset button on Yellowstone National Park's Grayling Creek is underway.
Starting this week, fisheries biologists will apply rotenone, a fish poison, to the main stem of Grayling and all of its tributaries in an effort to wipe out invasive brown and rainbow-cutthroat hybrid trout.
Because Grayling Creek and its tributaries run for more than 32 miles in the northwest part of the park, it's a major undertaking for Yellowstone, said Todd Koel, the park's fisheries supervisor.
“It's the largest project of its kind in the park,“ Koel said, “and one of the largest in the region.“
Grayling Creek is located north of West Yellowstone and drains the slopes of Crow Foot Ridge and Three Rivers and Echo peaks. Some anglers are opposed to removing fish from its waters.
“All of these species were stocked by the federal government itself,“ said Peter Moyer, a Jackson attorney and founder of the Wild Trout Conservation Coalition. “They're trying to kill them all, and it's offensive to a lot of people. They're running against the tide.“
After two years of fish poison application, Grayling Creek's native species will be reintroduced.
“The neat thing about this one is that it's both a westslope cutthroat trout and an Arctic grayling water,“ Koel said. “There are no grayling, even though it's named Grayling Creek.“
Grayling, historically common in the Madison, Gibbon, Firehole and Gallatin river drainages, have been extirpated from all flowing park waters. Several lake-dwelling populations still exist.
In addition to restocking Grayling Creek, Yellowstone's 2011 Native Fish Conservation Plan calls for rotenone treatments at Clear Creek, De Lacy Creek, Elk Creek, Soda Butte Creek, Specimen Creek and the Gibbon River. The Goose Lake chain and Pocket Lake also will be treated, the document said.
Before rotenone work started at Grayling Creek, a waterfall near the park boundary was modified so that it would provide a complete barrier to rainbow and brown trout in downstream stretches of the creek inside the Gallatin National Forest.
The next step, applying the rotenone, has its detractors.
Moyer wrote Yellowstone Superintendent Dan Wenk about Grayling Creek in a letter Tuesday.
“Yellowstone Park's highly aggressive ethnic cleansing campaign against wild trout continues full bore,“ Moyer said in the letter.
“Most sportsmen and others like to honor and protect wild trout, which are magnificent gamefish, not condone a wholesale slaughter.“
The downside of using rotenone is addressed in the park's Native Fish Conservation Plan.
Rotenone's effects on aquatic life outside of fish are “short-term,“ the document said.
Amphibians and insects present in the area can be severely reduced, but it's expected they would recover
completely within three years, according to the plan.
Once the westslope cutthroat reintroduced into Grayling Creek take hold the population will be used as a brood stock source for future restoration projects in the region. Presently, Last Chance Creek -a tiny, isolated tributary of Grayling Creek -has the only remaining genetically pure westslope cutthroat population in all of Yellowstone.
Through Aug. 30 Yellowstone is cautioning visitors to avoid swimming in or drinking from Grayling Creek and its tributaries. Warning signs will be posted at all treated areas.