Cutthroat Trout Management Concepts Cutthroat Trout Management









Actors Involved in the Yellowstone Cutthroat / Lake Trout Issue

There is no single group that is responsible for the preservation of the Yellowstone cutthroat trout subspecies.  Several state and federal agencies have been charged with the task of managing these fish, but private organizations have also taken an interest in the continued existence of the fish.  All of these groups work toward preserving the Yellowstone cutthroat for future generations.  Sometimes these groups differ in their opinions on the way that the cutthroat should be managed and challenge each other on management strategies.  These sorts of checks and balances are important in ensuring that the species does not fall victim to a single agency’s mismanagement.

Trout Unlimited

“Our Mission is to conserve, protect and restore
North America's trout and salmon fisheries
and their watersheds.”

Trout Unlimited is an organization of conservative minded anglers.  Their national office is based just outside of Washington, D.C. and employs professionals who testify before Congress, publish the organization’s quarterly magazine, TROUT, and intervene in federal legal proceedings.  There are also 500 local and state chapters that organize over 125, 000 grassroots volunteers involved in conservation issues.  Trout Unlimited also stresses the importance of native fisheries and the negative impacts of introduced or "exotic" species on native salmonid populations. The organization realizes that total eradication of lake trout in Yellowstone Lake is not possible so it’s position on the issue is that every effort should be made limit the lake trout population to a level that will affect cutthroat trout as little as possible. Several of its newsletters have focused on the lake trout issue in Yellowstone Lake and they have encouraged members to help however possible.  In 1996 the Wyoming Council of Trout Unlimited coordinated anglers in an effort to put a dent in the lake trout population by fishing.  This met with limited success.   They have since volunteered to help with the Park Service’s gillnetting program. However, to date, the Park Service has not called upon any of their volunteers to help.


National Park Service

By Act of Congress on March 1, 1872, Yellowstone National Park was "dedicated and set apart as a public park or pleasuring ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people" and "for the preservation, from injury or spoilation, of all timber, mineral deposits, natural curiosities, or wonders. . . and their retention in their natural condition."

The Park Service has been trying to live up to these two, often conflicting designations since its creation, and management strategies have changed with the popular views of the times. see history   The park receives an average of 2.5 million visitors in a year and about 17% of these are anglers.  Because of this large impact of the fishery resource Yellowstone changed its fishing regulations in 2001. see policy

US Fish and Wildlife Service

"The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's mission is, working with others, to conserve, protectand
enhance fish, wildlife, and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the
American people."

The US Fish and Wildlife Service enforces Federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, and conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands.  Until August 1996 a resident unit of the US Fish and Wildlife Service operated within Yellowstone National Park as a carryover from the park’s long history of fish stocking and transplanting.  This Fisheries Assistance Office cooperated with the Park Service on fisheries monitoring and research.  It recommended management plans based on their data of fish populations and angler usage.  Because of a reordering of national USFWS priorities and objectives in 1996, the monitoring of Yellowstone sport fisheries by the USFWS was no longer feasible and the task was handed over to the Park Service.  In August 1998, USFWS received a petition to list the Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout as threatened.  It denied this petition in February 2001 on grounds that the petition did “not provide substantial biological information to indicate that a listing may be warranted”.

Biodiversity Legal Foundation

The Biodiversity Legal Foundation is a non-profit conservation organization dedicated to the preservation of all native wild plants and animals, communities of species, and naturally functioning ecosystems.  Through educational, administrative, and legal actions, the BLF endeavors to encourage improved public attitudes and policies for all living things.  The BLF along with three other organizations petitioned the US Fish and Wildlife Service in 1998 to list the Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout as a threatened species.  The BLF has been involved in many of these petitions including petitions for the Trumpeter Swan and the Black Tailed Prairie Dog.  The Fish and Wildlife Service found negatively against the BLF’s petition to list Yellowstone Cutthroat.  When they challenge this finding in court, the BLF will raise the issue of the introduced Lake Trout threatening the Native Cutthroat Trout population.

Alliance for the Wild Rockies

“Alliance for the Wild Rockies' non-profit mission is to secure the
ecological integrity of the Wild Rockies Bioregion  through citizen
empowerment, and the application of conservation biology, sustainable
economic models and environmental law. ”


Alliance for the Wild Rockies is a tax-exempt, non-profit public interest organization dedicated to the protection and preservation of the native biodiversity of the Northern Rockies Bioregion.  This includes the natural features; natural functioning ecosystems; and native plant, fish, and animal life of parts of Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Oregon, Washington, Alberta, and British Columbia.  The Alliance has offices in Missoula, MT and Boise, ID.  It has a membership of nearly 1,000 businesses and organizations on top of approximately 3,600 individual members.  The Alliance’s goals include promoting protection for the native wildlife and fish species in the region and their habitat.  Also the establishment of wilderness areas, parks, wild and scenic rivers, and other designations to protect the natural and primitive qualities of the landscape is of great importance to them.  The Alliance also serves as a watchdog organization which reviews the policies and programs of federal land management agencies and provides the public with information on issues which affect the parks, wildernesses and other natural landscapes of the region, including the greater Yellowstone area.

Members of the Alliance currently work, or have worked, as park and forest rangers, naturalists, researchers, hiking guides, photographers, and nature writers.  Its members are directly affected by any activities which threaten or alter the natural qualities of the Northern Rockies Bioregion.  This includes the issue of the Lake Trout introduction into Yellowstone Lake and its threat to the native Cutthroat population.  The Alliance raised this issue when, along with three other organizations it petitioned the US Fish and Wildlife Service to list the Yellowstone Cutthroat as a threatened species.  Under its philosophy of preserving “ecological integrity”, the Alliance supports the Park Service’s efforts to limit the Lake Trout population through its gill netting operations.


Montana Ecosystems Defense Council

The Montana Ecosystems Defense Council (MEDC) is a non-profit corporation with its principal place of business in Bozeman, MT.  MEDC is concerned with the national and international interest of maintaining the biological diversity and integrity of all natural ecosystems.  It is also concerned with the enforcement and administration of environmental laws.  Its members use Yellowstone National Park and the national forests surrounding the park for recreation including fishing, hunting, hiking, cross-country skiing, and camping.  MEDC is concerned with threats to the Yellowstone Cutthroat including its shrinking range, low population numbers, degraded habitat, and the introduction of Lake Trout into Yellowstone Lake.  Because of these concerns MEDC was one of the organizations that petitioned the US Fish and Wildlife Service to list the Yellowstone Cutthroat as a threatened species.