Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Sun Valley vs. whitefish

Jon Marvel's organization scored a major victory in his battles against all things Custer County on April 2 when a judge ordered the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to re-examine its decision to not place the Lost River whitefish on the Endangered Species List. Because of new information coming to light, many Lost River residents are hoping Marvel is successful in his endeavors.

Government and public organizations have been aware of the decline of Lost River whitefish and have responded accordingly. Mackay USFS employee and recognized fisheries biologist Bart Gamett received the national award from Trout Unlimited for his work with this issue. Hundreds of thousands of government and Trout Unlimited dollars have been spent on fish slides over river barriers. Arco's Farm Services Agency chief Steve Cote has written the book on holistic range cattle management and is working with local ranchers.

All eyes are now turned on the fact that Lost River whitefish and invertebrates beyond any human activity are also dying out. Research will be done to determine whether this ecological die-off may be due to acid rain/snow from the Sun Valley area's thousands of vehicles, heavy equipment and other industrial pollutants spewing from the Wood River Valley. As the owners of the Columbia River dams have found out, it costs hundreds of millions of dollars to fight the government-sponsored attempts to save the steelhead by removing the dams. It may become necessary to remove Sun Valley to save this unique and special fish.

Twenty-five years ago there was an overabundance of whitefish in the Silver Creek, Big Wood and Big Lost waters. They are all virtually gone now. The only thing they have in common is a proximity to Sun Valley and its pollutants. If this "unique and special fish" is put on the Endangered Species List, the causes of those pollutants must be removed.

Bob Demorest


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