Global Ethics Corner: Enjoying, Managing, or Restoring Trout

Aug 20, 2010

Should national parks introduce non-native species for recreational purposes, or focus on preserving the parks' natural state?

Change is a constant in nature. Humans are often an accelerator, and that is most visible in the world's great scenic areas.

The UN designates hundreds of places as World Heritage Sites, whose purpose is to identify and protect uniquely valuable places.

Ironically, many countries seek designation of sites not only to preserve unique assets, but also to bring prestige, foreign investment, and tourist dollars.

These sites are treasured so that they can be enjoyed by future generations, but the enjoyment also creates massive change.

Yellowstone, America's first national park, is a World Heritage Site, and clearly illustrates these tensions and policies.

Fishing was always part of the enjoyment. When Yellowstone was founded in 1872, about half of the park's waters contained no fish. Early conservationists felt that the park's purpose would be enhanced if sports fishing was extended.

Non-native, but desirable species were introduced into Yellowstone's waters. Brook trout from the East went into high streams. Rainbow trout from the West and brown trout, introduced into America from Europe, were stocked into Yellowstone's lakes and rivers.

All three threaten the cutthroat trout in its native habitat, through cross-breeding or because they are better competitors for food.

Today, defending the original integrity of Yellowstone's fisheries is the primary concern. Attempts are being made to eliminate non-native species and restore cutthroat trout to some of their original range.

Enjoyment gave way to management, gave way to restoration.

What do you think? Should the focus be on enhancing the enjoyment of the park and its fisheries, on minimally managing and letting "nature take its course," or on restoring habitat that human intervention destroyed? Can you, perhaps, balance all three?

By William Vocke

Photo Credits in order of Appearance:

Mark Kobayashi-Hillary
Crystal Luxmore
Henrik Sendelbach
Nirudha Perera
Ivan Walsh
Paul Weimer

Montana State University Libraries

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Justin McCauliffe

Janet Crum
Eldan Goldenberg
Fabrizio Comolli
Brett Farmiloe
Ken Lund

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