Trout At Risk – The Canaries in the Coal Mine

Two recent reports have provided an alarming view of the future of trout in this country. Taken together they should also serve as a warning to us about our future.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the last week released a report (Climate Change in the U.S. – Benefits of Global Action) on climate change that concluded by 2100 there will be only one small trout population east of the Mississippi River (and that in the northeast corner of Vermont). In addition, with unmitigated climate change there will be an overall 62% decline in cold water habitat across the country.

This report follows another recent study by Trout Unlimited, called the State of the Trout. This study was not limited to climate change, but included looking at the impacts of energy development, non-native species, and water demand (other uses).

Consider the following highlights from the Trout Unlimited study.

The United States historically had 25 native trout species. Now, three are extinct. Of the remaining 22 species, half occupy less than half their original habitat. Each of those 22 species also has at least one moderate or major risk factor.

Those are looking at the overall patterns. The regional patterns – in terms of the areas that might interest here in Washington are as troubling.

The Pacific Coast region, including western Oregon and Washington (and roughly half of the eastern parts of each state – and western California faces threats in climate change, non-native species, and water demand. They classify the coastal cutthroat population – near and dear to us in Puget Sound – facing only moderate risks in climate change and water demand. Other species including Dolly Varden and bull trout are classified as having major risks in multiple categories.

We should not be smug in western Washington. As this summer reminds us, high heat can impact our streams and surface waters too, and forest fires destroy habitat for all species, including salmon.

The northern Rockies, including the hallowed ground of fly fishing – Montana, face risks to their native populations (e.g., western cutthroat and bull trout) in terms of non-native species and climate change. I suspect that many people don’t recognize that the prized trout of Montana – the brown and rainbow – are non native species.

While their future was not examined in this study as they are non-native, other Trout Unlimited studies in the past looked at the risks of stream warming. As might be expected, they are in trouble too.

Combined these reports add to the growing list of publications and studies that highlight the threat of climate change. For climate change is happening in spite of the efforts of the fossil fuels industries, their paid agents, and useful idiots to deny it.

And water demand – and supply – is not an issue for only fish.

Forks, Washington – on the western coast of the Olympic peninsula and one of the wettest places in the country – has imposed water restrictions this summer due to the water levels in the wells dropping. Water rationing may become a future we all will learn to live with.

Denial of the problem may be easy for some; thinking those problems will occur long after they’re pushing up daisies in some boneyard.

But no one knows when exactly the tipping point will occur and rapid climate change commences. Beyond that, it doesn’t matter if we are alive when the apocalyptic events begin. We have children or grandchildren, or know of people who are younger than us. We owe it to them to fight the future that appears inevitable if we do nothing.

You can read the reports at the following links:

EPA Report

Trout Unlimited Study

Author: Tom

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