Yellowstone National Park is home to the most ecologically and economically important inland cutthroat trout fisheries remaining in North America. However, threats to these native trout have, over the past decade, irreversibly altered and made future sustainability of this thriving and diverse ecosystem uncertain. Science has helped to develop our understanding of the consequences of status-quo management. In fact, without swift and continuing action, negative effects on the native trout populations of Yellowstone—keystone energy sources for numerous mammal and bird species, and a recreational focus for visitors—have the potential to produce impacts that will reverberate throughout the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.
For instance, each predatory, non-native lake trout—a species illegally introduced to Yellowstone Lake at least 20 years ago but not discovered until 1994—can annually consume at least 41 cutthroat trout each year. Lake trout have the potential to decimate the Yellowstone Lake cutthroat trout population in our lifetime without heightened and maintained management efforts. Lake trout are not an acceptable substitute for cutthroat trout in the ecosystem because they occupy an ecological niche unavailable to cutthroat-eating predators, threatening the many species, such as grizzly bears, bald eagles, and river otters, that depend on cutthroat trout for survival.