Outdoors

NPS Looking to Address Threats to Glacier Park’s Lakes, Streams

The NPS hopes to maintain Glacier's native aquatic ecosystems where they remain intact

Glacier National Park Superintendent Jeff Mow announced last week the launch of a two-year comprehensive planning process to address large-scale issues affecting the park’s iconic lakes and streams, including non-native invasive species and climate change.

“Glacier National Park’s native aquatic ecosystems are essential in maintaining regional biodiversity,” said Mow. “However, the Park’s lakes and streams are increasingly threatened by non-native invasive fish and other organisms, and by the impacts of climate change. This plan will evaluate a variety of methods for addressing these threats in a comprehensive way.”

Park officials say the purpose of the plan is to develop an integrated and adaptive approach to the restoration, conservation and future management of native aquatic species and their habitats across the park, including the federally-listed threatened bull trout and the state-listed westslope cutthroat trout.

The NPS hopes to maintain Glacier’s native aquatic ecosystems where they remain intact, restore altered aquatic ecosystems to historic conditions where possible, provide refugia for native aquatic species confronted with the impacts of climate change, protect native fish from the effects of non-native invasive species, and continue the park’s collaborative contribution to native fish and aquatic ecosystem conservation on a regional level.

The agency is seeking to evaluate conservation methods such as translocating native fish to suitable habitat and removing invasive non-native fish, including lake trout using mechanical methods such as netting, trapping, angling, and electrofishing. The NPS will also review whether to use the fish toxicant rotenone. Following the removal of non-native fish, some park waters could be repopulated with native species while others could be left to recover to their historically fishless state, the agency says. Additional fish passage barriers could be constructed in some areas.

Glacier National Park would continue collaborative efforts with park neighbors to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species (AIS), such as quagga and zebra mussels.

The plan will also include an evaluation of the establishment of a fishing permit to help fund fishery restoration and conservation actions, similar to fishing permits at Yellowstone National Park. Currently, there is no fee for fishing at Glacier National Park and anglers are not required to have a state license or a park fishing permit.

The agency’s proposed action is one alternative that will be evaluated during the environmental impact statement process. In addition, the National Park Service will consider a no-action alternative, an alternative that would include the same elements as the proposed action but use mechanical methods only to remove non-native fish, and an alternative that uses chemical methods only to remove non-native fish. Alternatives suggested during the scoping period will also be considered.

The National Park Service is accepting public comments on the plan, called the Fisheries Management, Aquatics Restoration, and Climate Change Response Plan/Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), through May 11.

The park is accepting written comments, concerns, and ideas from the public during the scoping period. The scoping brochure is available through the park’s planning website. Comments can be made directly through this website. Written comments can also be submitted to:  Superintendent, Glacier National Park, Attn:  Fish and Aquatics Plan/EIS, PO Box 128 West Glacier, Montana 59936.

Public scoping meetings will be held on May 4 in Great Falls, at the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., and on May 5, in Kalispell at the Flathead National Forest Supervisor’s Office from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

There are 725 lakes or ponds in Glacier Park, as well as over 174 perennial marshes and wetlands, and 1,500 miles of perennial stream within the park’s boundaries. The park’s aquatic ecosystem supports a diverse array of amphibians and aquatic insects and 17 native fish species.