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The Nation

Forest Service Backs Plan to Save Fish

Trout that is native only to a creek south of Lake Tahoe is one of the world's rarest species.

February 15, 2004|From Associated Press

CARSON CITY, Nev. — The U.S. Forest Service is backing a plan designed to ensure the survival of one of the world's rarest trout species.

Robert Vaught, supervisor of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, has released an environmental analysis of the plan to restore the Paiute cutthroat trout to its native habitat in the Sierra Nevada near Markleeville, Calif.

The Paiute cutthroat is native only to part of Silver King Creek in the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness, which flows into the Carson River south of Lake Tahoe.

The project proposed by the California Department of Fish and Game is expected to remove the Paiute cutthroat from the federal endangered species list. The species was declared endangered in 1970, but was upgraded to threatened in 1975.

"What's exciting about this project is that we have the opportunity to totally recover this threatened species," Carson District Ranger Gary Schiff said.

"The Paiute cutthroat trout is a remarkably beautiful fish [with] striking orange-red markings below the gills," he added.

Fish and Game officials want to chemically treat the streams and lake this fall and next to rid nonnative trout from an 11-mile stretch of Silver King Creek, its tributaries and Tamarack Lake, and reintroduce the Paiute.

The Forest Service's environmental analysis addresses Fish and Game's request to use mechanical tools and poisons in the wilderness.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has identified the poison that would be used as Rotenone, which is controversial in the Sierra because the state has used it unsuccessfully in four past attacks on nonnative fish.

"While concerns have been raised about chemical treatments, the proposed concentrations are considerably milder than have been used in the past," said Jim Harvey, forest fisheries biologist. "Impacts to stoneflies and other insects that the Paiute cutthroat trout eat will be minimized."

The Forest Service has set a 30-day public comment period on the plan.

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