The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is one of the largest intact temperate ecosystems in the world, but its native fish face an uncertain future. The Arctic grayling, westslope cutthroat trout and Yellowstone cutthroat trout, once abundant in the ecosystem’s lakes, rivers and streams, are facing significant declines in their populations.
Threats include hybridization and competition with non-native species, loss of habitat, disease and climate change. The loss of native fish from the ecosystem would have impacts on the nutrient cycle that has been functioning for millennia, and would be devastating to the chances of these species survival.
Federal and state agencies have adopted management plans aimed at preserving and restoring fish populations. The goals of the National Park Service’s Native Fish Conservation Plan: to help rebound and stabilize Yellowstone cutthroat populations in Yellowstone Lake, establish multiple genetically pure populations of westslope and Yellowstone cutthroat trout, and restore a fluvial population of Arctic grayling.
Outside of the park, the U.S. Forest Service has teamed up with the State of Montana to protect genetically pure populations of cutthroat and restore populations that have experienced hybridization. Using fish barriers and piscicide treatments, the two agencies share the work of conservation for the westslope cutthroat trout and Yellowstone cutthroat trout in much of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.
The federal and state agencies involved in native fish conservation in Greater Yellowstone are not working alone. Through the establishment of Memorandums of Understanding, non-profit groups and government agencies are working in coalition to help conserve and restore native fish populations and habitat. National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) is a signatory of one of these agreements with the National Park Service.