June 8, 2016
Contact: Dana M. Dierkes
SEQUOIA AND KINGS CANYON NATIONAL PARKS, CALIFORNIA—The Restoration of Native Species in High Elevation Aquatic Ecosystems Plan / Final Environmental Impact Statement (Restoration Plan/FEIS) for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks will be available to the public starting on June 10, 2016. A notice of availability for the Restoration Plan/FEIS will be published in the Federal Register on the same day. The National Park Service (NPS) will issue a Record of Decision 30 or more days after the plan has been released to the public. More information, including the Restoration Plan/FEIS, is available electronically on the NPS Planning, Environment and Public Comment website at https://parkplanning.nps.gov/aquatics. A limited number of printed copies are available, and versions of the document are also available on CD by calling Nancy Hendricks, environmental protection specialist, at (559) 565-3102. (If you previously requested a printed or CD-version of the document, you should receive it by June 10 or 11.) In addition, printed versions of the document are available for viewing at the Foothills Visitor Center (Sequoia National Park), Lodgepole Visitor Center (Sequoia National Park), Kings Canyon Visitor Center (Kings Canyon National Park—Grant Grove), and at the following area libraries:
- Clovis Regional Library
- Fresno County Libraries: Bear Mountain Branch; Central Branch; Fowler Branch; Kingsburg Branch; Orange Cove Branch; Parlier Branch; Reedley Branch; Sanger Branch; Selma Branch; Sunnyside Branch
- Kern County Libraries: Bakersfield –Beale Memorial Library
- Inyo County Libraries: Big Pine Branch; Lone Pine Branch; Bishop Branch
- Tulare County Libraries: Dinuba Branch; Exeter Branch; Lindsay Branch; Three Rivers Branch; Visalia Branch; Porterville Public Library
- Merced County Libraries: Merced Library
The purpose of the plan is to guide management actions by the NPS to restore and conserve the native species diversity and ecological function of selected high elevation aquatic ecosystems that have been adversely impacted by human activities and to increase the resistance and resilience of native species and ecosystems to human-induced modifications to the environment. Under alternative B of the Restoration Plan/FEIS, the NPS would employ physical treatment where feasible (gill netting, electrofishing, trapping, disturbing redds (fish egg nests), and/or temporarily covering spawning habitat with boulders) and piscicide treatment (the use of rotenone) for waterbodies determined infeasible for physical treatment. Physical treatment would be applied in approximately 52 waterbodies (27 lakes, 24 ponds, 1 marsh) and 15 miles of streams in 17 basins. Piscicide treatment would be applied in approximately 33 waterbodies (4 lakes, 25 ponds, and 4 marshes) and 16 miles of streams in 9 basins. The number of waterbodies and stream miles identified for treatment represents the maximum number of waterbodies to be treated under alternative B. If alternative B is selected, the plan would be implemented over the next 25-35 years—and piscicide treatments would not start until 2017 or 2018. After all treatments are completed, self-sustaining non-native trout populations would continue to exist in the parks in 465 waterbodies (221 lakes, 186 ponds, 58 marshes) and in hundreds of miles of streams.
The Restoration Plan/Draft EIS was available for public review from September 26, 2013, to December 17, 2013. The NPS received 123 public comment letters: from individuals, interest groups, businesses, and government agencies. In response to public comments, agency feedback, and new technical information, the preferred alternative (alternative B) changed slightly between the release of the draft plan and the final plan.
The Restoration Plan/FEIS analyzes a range of management alternatives for the restoration and conservation of high elevation aquatic ecosystems within Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. Non-native fish have severely reduced native biological diversity and disrupted ecological function in the high elevation aquatic ecosystems within SEKI. From 1870 to 1988, several species of non-native trout, including golden, rainbow, golden x rainbow hybrid, brook, and brown trout, were introduced into many previously fishless waterbodies throughout SEKI. Surveys conducted from 1997 to 2002 determined that self-sustaining non-native trout populations had become established in 575 lakes, ponds, and marshes, plus connecting streams, and nearly all streams that drain these sites from high to low elevations. Many studies conducted in SEKI and elsewhere in the Sierra Nevada analyzed the effects that non-native trout have on native species and ecosystems. These studies consistently document that the widespread introduction and continued presence of non-native trout have caused substantial impacts to native species and ecosystems.
Two species of mountain yellow-legged frogs (Rana muscosa and Rana sierrae) (MYLFs) have been particularly vulnerable to the impacts of non-native fish stocking. These species are integral components of SEKI's high elevation aquatic ecosystems. Non-native trout plus the spread of the amphibian chytrid fungus are the primary factors that have caused formerly abundant MYLFs to disappear from more than 92% of historic sites in the Sierra Nevada, with similarly large losses in SEKI. Most of the remaining MYLF populations are small, isolated, often restricted to small ponds vulnerable to drying, and diseased –with low survival and recruitment rates. As a result, in April 2014, both species were listed as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act. Intervention is urgently needed to prevent the extirpation of both MYLF species from the parks.