The U.S. Forest Service is looking at ways other than using poison to kill rainbow trout so native Paiute cutthroat trout can be restored in the southern part of Alpine County.
The promise to create and analyze a list of alternatives less drastic than poison is in response to a successful legal challenge filed in August by the Center for Biological Diversity.
The center and Nancy Erman, an aquatic ecology specialist who used to teach at the University of California at Davis, filed suit saying the project was in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act because of inadequate environmental analyses.
The USFS project coordinator could not be reached for comment Friday, but California Department of Fish and Game officials have said hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars have been wasted because of the lawsuit. DFG had planned to begin the poisoning last fall.
The revised USFS action plan is expected to be completed in July, with restoration work tentatively scheduled to begin next fall.
"We fully support the removal of the nonnative fish and the restoration of the Paiute cutthroat trout throughout their historic range in the Sierra," said Jeff Miller, of the Center for Biological Diversity.
"However, there are potentially very serious consequences to poisoning this ecosystem, and we want to make sure the right tool is chosen for the job," Miller said.
Despite a commitment to complete an environmental analysis, the Forest Service says it still supports DFG's plan to use Rotenone to kill nonnative rainbow trout in and around Silver King Creek and in Tamarack Lake.
The rainbow were planted in 1949. Since then, the poison has been spread three times to kill fish, most recently in the early 1990s.
DFG says it needs to kill rainbows along six miles of Silver King Creek and five miles of worth tributaries and in Tamarack Lake, so it can replant the area with the threatened Paiute cutthroat trout. Tamarack, however, would not be stocked with Paiute.
The Center for Biological Diversity says it is concerned about use of the poison because of the larger impacts it can have.
"Studies show that Rotenone causes significant long-term effects on aquatic invertebrates, the food source for trout and other aquatic life," Miller said. "Silver King Creek was treated with Rotenone in 1964, 1977 and in the early 1990s - (yet) the Forest Service has failed to analyze or discuss why nonnative trout still persists there before proceeding with another poisoning."
Jim Harvey, USFS project coordinator, could not be reached for comment on Friday. He is accepting public comment through Friday to the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest Carson Ranger District by fax at (775) 355-5301 or at email@example.com.
Silver King Creek is in the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness. Wilderness areas are considered to be the most environmentally sensitive national forest land. Rotenone is a natural substance found in the roots of tropical plants.
Gregory Crofton can be reached at (530) 542-8045 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org