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Contact: Amy Vanderbilt, 406-888-5838
Contact: Wade Muehlhof, 406-888-7895
WEST GLACIER, MONT. – Glacier National Park officials today announced the completion of the review process for the Large-Scale Removal of Lake Trout in Quartz Lake Environmental Assessment that proposes a lake trout removal project in Quartz Lake. A Finding of No Significant Impact or FONSI (the decision document) was signed by the Intermountain Regional Director, Mike Snyder, on August 3, 2009. The decision to move ahead was reached after careful review of environmental impacts associated with the project and after consideration of all public comments received on the environmental assessment (EA) which was released for public review in May 2009.
Until recently, Quartz Lake, located in Glacier National Park’s northwestern corner, was the largest natural lake supporting bull trout in the Columbia River Basin that had not been compromised by nonnative fish species. Despite efforts to protect Quartz Lake from invading lake trout, (by constructing a fish barrier in 2004), lake trout were discovered in Quartz Lake in 2005. In response to this development, Glacier National Park in collaboration with the U.S. Geological Survey will evaluate and determine the status of lake trout in Quartz Lake, identify primary spawning areas through the use of radio-telemetry, and then remove as many lake trout as possible during targeted netting efforts. A motorized boat and gill netting operation will be the primary methods used to conduct this study.
"While this project will take place on Quartz Lake, it has the potential to protect the native fishery of the entire upper Quartz Lake system which includes Middle Quartz, Quartz and Cerulean lakes," remarked Park Superintendent Chas Cartwright.
The upper Quartz Lake system is located within recommended wilderness in the North Fork of the Flathead River watershed. Native fish species in this complex include bull trout, classified under the Endangered Species Act as "Threatened," westslope cutthroat trout, a Montana state species of special concern, mountain whitefish, and others.
Concerns were raised by some commenters regarding potential negative impacts to recommended wilderness from an action that they deem has a limited likelihood of success. However, National Park Service biologists have consulted with outside fisheries biologists and other fisheries professionals and NPS managers believe that a four year experimental lake trout control project is a reasonable and responsible way to proceed. Cartwright noted, "If native fish populations can be conserved in Quartz Lake, then potential temporary negative impacts to recommended wilderness are considered acceptable (not significant) and can be mitigated." He added, "The project area comprises a very small portion of Glacier’s recommended wilderness."
Proposed improvements to the existing fish barrier, described in the EA, have been removed from the project due to public concerns and the need for additional information and analysis. It may be analyzed at a later time if determined to be necessary. The potential boat house described in the EA was also eliminated from the proposal. Mitigation to reduce and prevent adverse impacts to nesting common loons and bald eagles has been added.
The work will begin in late August 2009. This project will be funded by the National Park Service, the U.S. Geological Survey, and the Glacier National Park Fund, Glacier’s official fundraising partner.
The Plan/EA evaluated a "no action" alternative and one action alternative. Impacts associated with the proposal were evaluated by park resource specialists for the following topics: fisheries/aquatic species, recommended wilderness, visitor use and experience, wildlife, and threatened, endangered and species of concern, and natural sound.
The FONSI is available online on the National Park Service’s planning website at http://parkplanning.nps.gov by selecting this project.
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