09 Nov 2011

Restoration of Paiute Cutthroat Trout Blocked By Environmentalists

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Paiute Cutthroat Trout (Oncorhynchus clarki seleniris)

There is naturally a special fascination for sportsmen in the prospect of trying for an example of particularly rare and beautiful game species.

The Paiute Cutthroat Trout survived in only a portion of a single remote stream in the High Sierras, Silver King Creek, (and transplants have been made to only handful of other locations), so Paiute Cutthroats do not grow to a very large size, but with respect to beauty and rarity, they inevitably rank at the top of the heap of potential trophies for the trout fisherman. I say potential, because it has not been legal to fish for Paiute Cutthroats for many decades. Occasionally, one is caught, photographed, and released with special permission by some writer or fisheries biologist.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday on the ironic situation in which environmentalist extremism on the part of two busybodies, has, for more than a decade, successfully blocked efforts by the California fish and game department to restore the rare Paiute Cutthroat to its original home range on the lower portion of Silver King Creek.

In 1912, a young shepherd named Joe Jaunsaras wanted to fish the fishless upper [portion of Silver King] [C]reek, historical records show, so he carried some Paiute trout up in a can. The fish still exist in that upper stretch of the creek.

He unwittingly saved the Paiute trout from extinction. … State officials later put other trout species into the Paiute trout’s old home. The more-aggressive new fish ate some Paiute trout and hybridized with others. By the 1940s, Paiute trout were gone from the nine-mile stretch of creek.

There are now fewer than 2,000 adult Paiute trout… The fish has been classified as “threatened” on the federal Endangered Species List since 1975.

California’s fish and game department started working on plans to restore the Paiute trout to their old range in the 1990s.

Then Ms. Erman, the bug researcher, found out. At a water conference in Las Vegas around 2000, someone—she doesn’t remember who—mentioned a plan to use the rotenone toxin in Silver King Creek. Ms. Erman says she knew there were few studies on whether that would kill rare insects. She talked to others who were skeptical of using poisons in the wilderness.

Ms. Erman came to believe that angling enthusiasts were driving the plan at the expense of other species.

Mr. Somer of the state fish and game department says a recreational Paiute fishery could be a “benefit” of a successful restoration, though he says the creek may never open to fishing. …

Ms. Erman joined forces with environmental lawyers, who in 2003 sued in federal court to stop the trout plan because of their concerns over using rotenone. The suit delayed the plan, but state officials got it back on track until Ms. Erman and her allies in 2004 successfully lobbied a water board near Silver King Creek to halt the plan. The state water board overturned the decision.

The following year Ms. Erman’s allies at Californians for Alternatives to Toxics filed new state and federal suits. They won a federal judgment forcing the state to modify the Paiute trout plan by doing more studies.

The trout plan was again on track in 2010, when the state and federal agencies completed final reports in preparation of poisoning the creek.

But a wet winter caused delays and the insect allies kept litigating. In September, U.S. District Judge Frank Damrell issued an injunction on the plan, in part because it “left native invertebrate species out of the balance.”

The plan, wrote the judge, was “failing to consider the potential extinction of native invertebrate species.”

Nancy Erman, a retired invertebrate researcher from the University of California-Davis, and Ann McCampbell, a Santa Fe, New Mexico physician who appears publicly representing the Multiple Chemical Sensitivities Task Force of New Mexico (a group comprised essentially of herself) are waging a campaign against the use of rotenone and antimycin, the piscicides that would be used to eliminate hybrid and competing trout species in order to allow the reintroduction to their native stretch of stream of one of the rarest and most beautiful trout species in the Western Hemisphere.

Erman and McCampbell, with inadvertent comedy, have actually successfully combined left-wing egalitarianism on the level of Natural Orders, essentially winning in court by accusing California of discrimination in favor of vertebrates (!) with their environmentalist fanatical opposition to chemical piscicides and their Puritan hostility to the field sport of angling.

Looking at all this from the viewpoint of democracy, the state of California sells approximately two million fishing licenses a year. The American Sportfishing Association, as of 2006, estimated that 30,000,000 Americans bought fishing licenses each year, but that twice that number actually fished in the course of a five year period.

All two million licensed California anglers and roughly 60,000,000 American anglers contribute money via license fees and excise taxes of equipment for fisheries management and have a legitimate interest in the perservation of the Paiute Cutthroat and the eventual creation over time of a highly restricted, catch-and-release fishery allowing Americans to interact with this rare and charismatic trout.

But our system of laws has become so sclerotic, so open to manipulation by cranks, extremists, and special interests that two malevolent old crackpots can impose their will against the desires and interests of millions upon millions.

Normal Americans, in this particular case, as in so many others, find themselves simply run right over by crazy people utilizing the enabling provisions of feel-good legislation, like the Endangered Species Act, which the majority allowed to be passed into law.

We need to modify and repeal that kind of enabling legislation and we need to pass laws applying some kind of scrutiny to the deceptive fund raising and the lobbying and litigating activities of radical fringe groups attempting to exercise extravagant kinds of power at the expense of ordinary people.

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One Feedback on "Restoration of Paiute Cutthroat Trout Blocked By Environmentalists"

John Brookes

I am having to assume that dosing the creeks with rotenone or antimycine is expertly judged to be the only 100% sure method of eliminating all competing trout from the Paiute Cutthroat’s native water. Otherwise, why not circumvent the obstructionism from Nancy Erman & Co by electric fishing the entire 9 mile stretch?
That would probably be more costly than dosing with toxins; but surely less expensive than endlessly protracted litigation. Or should, perhaps, I assume that the environmentalist lawyers for both the bugs and the trout are enjoying this feast at public expense so much that they would contrive to argue about electric shock hurting the bugs too?
This is indeed a nonsensical fight between competing environmentalists. And you are surely correct in concluding that the Endangered Species Act — along with a few thousand tons of EPA regulations — needs to be drastically revised or trashed.



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