Public Perceptions of Mountain Lake Fisheries Management in National Parks

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Journal of Environmental Management

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The legacy of fish stocking in mountain lake ecosystems has left behind a challenge for land managers around the globe. In the US and Canada, historically fishless mountain lakes have been stocked with trout for over a century. These non-native trout have cascading ecosystem effects, and can accumulate atmospherically deposited contaminants. While the negative impacts of stocking in these ecosystems have become increasingly apparent, wilderness fishing has garnered cultural value in the angling community. As a result, public lands managers are left with conflicting priorities. National park managers across the western US are actively trying to reconcile the cultural and ecological values of mountain lakes through the development of management plans for mountain lake fisheries. However, visitors' social perceptions, attitudes, and values regarding mountain lake fisheries management have remained unquantified, and thus largely left out of the decision-making process. Our study evaluated the recreation habits, values, and attitudes of national park visitors towards fish stocking and management of mountain lakes of two national parks in the Pacific Northwest. We found that most visitors favor fish removal using a conservation approach, whereby sensitive lakes are restored, while fish populations are maintained in lakes that are more resilient. An important consideration for managers is that many mountain lake anglers consume fish on an annual basis, thus we emphasize the use of outreach and education regarding the accumulation of contaminants in fish tissues. Our findings help elucidate the conflicting views of stakeholders, and we provide recommendations to inform management of mountain lakes fisheries in North America and abroad.

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