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The National Park Service has completed the Mountain Lakes Fishery Management Plan / Environmental Impact Statement. The Mountain Lakes Fishery Management Plan is based on more than ten years of research regarding the ecological impacts of fish stocking within the North Cascades ecosystem and was developed via unprecedented collaboration between the National Park Service and the State of Washington. It will substantially improve existing ecological conditions while continuing to provide sport-fishing opportunities in reservoirs, rivers and streams, and select mountain lakes within each of the three units of North Cascades National Park Service Complex (North Cascades National Park, Ross Lake National Recreation Area, and Lake Chelan National Recreation Area).
The implementation of the Preferred Alternative, which would allow continued stocking of non-reproducing fish in 42 select lakes, will require clarification from Congress that fish stocking is appropriate within the park complex. Such clarification is needed because the 2006 National Park Service Management Policies prohibit stocking in naturally fishless lakes to preserve and protect naturally fishless aquatic ecosystems. If Congress does not provide clarification by summer 2009, the National Park Service will cease stocking mountain lakes and remove reproducing populations of fish from mountain lakes where it is feasible to do so.
The National Park Service’s Preferred Alternative is the same as identified in the 2005 Draft Mountain Lakes Fishery Management Plan / Environmental Impact Statement. This alternative would, if authorized by congress, result in adaptive management of the 91 natural mountain lakes within the park complex with a history of fish stocking and up to 42 of these lakes will remain fishable. The management action will eliminate high densities of reproducing fish populations from lakes using several methods including gill netting and habitat modification (in smaller lakes) and application of the piscicide antimycin (in larger lakes), and also allow continued stocking of select lakes with trout species incapable of reproducing due to habitat and life history constraints (i.e. species considered functionally sterile). The impact analysis indicates that continued stocking (at low densities with non-reproducing fish) will have negligible to minor impacts to aquatic life.
This summer, the National Park Service will continue long-term ecological monitoring and test gill net fish removal methods at select mountain lakes while continuing cooperative fisheries management with the State of Washington.
The Mountain Lakes Fishery Management Plan / Environmental Impact Statement and additional materials can be accessed online at https://parkplanning.nps.gov/noca