As Climate Warms American West, Iconic Trout In Jeopardy

Posted on November 15th, 2013 by

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As readers might recall, I suffer from weather-mania, an affliction inherited from my father.  However, I also suffer from trout-mania, an affliction equally inherited from my father that was born on the small streams of Franconia, Minnesota, and matured on the blue-ribbon streams of southwestern Montana.

Today, the very trout that have brought me so much joy are in danger.  As Christopher Joyce of NPR reported yesterday, Montana’s resident trout population, that brings in over $250 million annually to the state, are in decline.  While native cutthroat trout have competed for resources with non-native species, agriculture, mining, and residential development in the past,  today the biggest threat to the species is global climate change.  As temperatures in the western United States increase, snowpack levels decrease and stream and river temperatures increase.  How this will impact this iconic species and the communities that depend on it for economic vitality remains to be seen.  However, one thing is clear, and I’ve experienced this firsthand myself, trout, regardless of the species, cannot survive in warm waters.

As Norman Maclean once wrote, “When I was young, a teacher had forbidden me to say “more perfect” because she said if a thing is perfect it can’t be more so.  But by now I had seen enough of life to have regained by confidence in it.” Let’s hope that we can make our western waters “more perfect”!

 

Photo Credit: Jonny Armstrong/USGS

 

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