by Brandon Loomis, The Salt Lake Tribune
The U.S. Forest Service has withdrawn its permission for Utah to poison a Boulder Mountain stream to cleanse it of non-native fish before restoring native cutthroat trout.
Dixie National Forest Supervisor Rob Macwhorter had approved the state’s use of fish-killing rotenone in southern Utah’s East Boulder Creek, but after public outcry, including from the Boulder Town Council, he withdrew the decision, the Forest Service confirmed Tuesday.
The move leaves in limbo the state’s plans to eliminate competition for native Colorado River cutthroats, though an agency spokesman said Dixie National Forest Service will work with interested parties to find a better plan.
“The Forest Service withdrew the decision in order to allow more time for collaboration around the various possible methods that we might use to restore native cutthroat trout,” forest spokesman Kenton Call said. “The forest is very committed to restoring native trout.”
Opponents who had appealed Macwhorter’s original decision called the reversal “a precedent-setting victory” because it’s a rare rejection of the common fish-killer on public lands.
“We’re happy to work with them on other ways to eliminate non-native fish,” said Mike Garrity, executive director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies. But rotenone is “off the table” as far as he’s concerned, because “it kills everything across a wide spectrum.”
Boulder farmer Matthew Cochran had fought the plan as a potential threat to public health and the stream’s ecology — rotenone kills insects as well as fish — but called the decision a “win-win.” He said he will help find other solutions.
“It’s a government agency and a community coming together,” he said, “to improve a stream.”
The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources wanted to use rotenone because it’s considered more effective than the alternatives, said Richard Hepworth, assistant aquatics manager for the division’s southern region. Other methods such as collecting fish after electroshocking only remove 70 percent to 80 percent of the fish.
DWR already had cleared West Boulder Creek and restocked it with native fish, then started on East Boulder Creek when residents complained of dead trout washing up in 2009. The state stopped its program for Forest Service review.
Hepworth said he’s willing to work with other groups on a plan, but, without rotenone, “I’m not hopeful.”