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Unacceptable “Science” – Public Relations and Poison

The recent killing of 7 miles of Montana’s Cherry Creek, waters NOT targeted for poisoning, will likely become a watershed moment in a project long fraught by an unacceptable brand of “science.”

For the planned project, it seems that best management practices have only been applied to public relations: “poisoning” has been appropriately relabeled “treatment,” “fish migration barriers” are now called “invasive barriers,“ and “killing aquatic ecosystems then restocking with a fish monoculture” is referred to as “native fish restoration.” Sadly, our agency scientists and technicians have become schooled masters of double-speak in a brave new world where “down” means “up.”

Driven by expensive multi-year project budgets and a refreshed zeal to “restore” native fish species, the 60-year-old management practice of poisoning and stocking fish has a conservation buzz these days seemingly untarnished by its severe, lethal and collateral impacts.  Here the so-called “acceptable” damages to water quality, insect life, native fish species, and all creatures that depend on this ecosystem for their survival, bled into many miles of unintended water. Thousands of dead fish including those native to the system simply perished in the “accident” and those responsible at Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks don’t know why or how the problem occurred.

Despite this and with the expected Monday morning spin, Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks made it clear that the next phase of poisoning on Cherry Creek will occur on schedule, without pause, and without an assessment of either the unintended impacts or cause(s) for the incident.

Fisheries biologists at the agency need to learn lessons from other resource managers. Invasive species cannot be controlled by ecosystem “sterilization.”   Chemicals alone cannot be counted on as a solution to exotics. When environmental accidents occur, environmental assessment and then remediation are the important immediate steps. (Preventing similar environmental accidents in the future is the goal.)  Data, science, and humility are your friends.  Importantly, the best public relations won’t disguise flawed techniques, failed implementation, or damaged project sites.

It would seem that only hubris could prevent the thorough and careful review of this project’s plans, practices, and procedures.  And only the continued unacceptable “science” on Cherry Creek, driven by a confused blend of regulation, politics, and money, could make it all possible.

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Trout Project Kills Fish Not Targeted by Poisoning

Poison being used to remove fish from a section of Montana’s Cherry Creek persisted longer than expected and killed nontarget fish Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks reported recently in a press release.  The statement said fish were killed in the lower seven miles of Cherry Creek, a tributary of the Madison River southwest of Bozeman.  >READ MORE

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The Most Invasive Species

I read with interest the recent story by Brett French Barrier Proposed to Protect Cutthroat,” announcing Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks’ latest misguided plan to construct dams and dump poison into streams in Sweet Grass County.  It occurs to me that if anyone other than state fisheries biologists were building dams in natural streams or trying to eradicate every fish, amphibian, reptile, insect and macroinvertebrate from their natural habitats –  our community would be in an uproar.  Imagine for example that all this aquatic life was being impacted by a massive oil spill…or destroyed by a developer.

Unfortunately, our local community of anglers, conservationists, non-profits, and scientists has mostly been silent.  Instead, the quiet march of environmental destruction has continued across Montana – by plan with public funding. 

It is widely known that dams stop the migration of not just so-called “invasive species” but of all species of fish including those native to the stream system.  This is the reason that so many dam REMOVAL projects to restore rivers are going on across the U.S. today.   The poison (Rotenone) that MT FW&P continues to infer will somehow magically kill only the target non-native fish species continues to kill everything in its path, including in this case the very trout that this expensive and invasive program is by definition intended to “protect” and “restore.” 

Anyone doubting the significant collateral damage being caused by this brand of so-called “Native Fish Restoration” or the potential long-term impacts can read more at www.stopriverkilling.org or see a short documentary http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2CCPCrIJJts 

Montana’s streams, rivers and wetlands face many challenges today, but few so great as poorly conceived, extreme management techniques.  In this we are clearly the most invasive species.

To comment on the project, write MT Fish, Wildlife & Parks, Jeremiah Wood at P.O. Box 27, Fishtail MT 59028 or e-mail jrwood@mt.gov.

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