Trout recovery effort based on best science available

CO Springs Gazette Letters

September 30, 2007

It was with a great deal of disappointment that I read The Gazette’s Sept. 13 Our View, “Fishy science / Preble’s mouse, meet greenback trout.” Rather than take the opportunity to educate the public about the release of this significant scientific finding, The Gazette chose to politicize this discovery. This was done by suggesting that the greenback trout recovery efforts implemented over the past 20 years were not performed using “sound scientific basis for its actions.”

It is the nature of science that “facts” once thought to be reliable become obsolete upon the discovery of new information. That is the case with the Colorado greenback cutthroat trout. As science develops greater insight into DNA, greater specificity between species and sub-species can be determined.

The greenback cutthroat trout has long been known to have evolved from a line of trout originating from the rainbow trout, with the Colorado River cutthroat trout being its closest relative. As a result, the genetics of the greenback are very similar to that of these trout. Only within the past 10 years have scientists been able to distinguish between “pure” greenback cutthroat trout and those that have been hybridized with the rainbow trout genes. The ability to distinguish between the Colorado greenback cutthroat trout and the Colorado River cutthroat trout using DNA has been discovered only in the past 12 months.

Using the latest science available, the Colorado Division of Wildlife has been attempting to bring back a stable population of the greenback cutthroat trout. The only tools available to distinguish the greenback from the Colorado River cutthroat were the location where they were found and their physical traits. Twenty years ago, DNA testing of their differences had not progressed to the point of being able to use that technique. These latest findings now allow for this determination.

I found this discovery to be a positive and exciting event. Not only do we now have another tool to aid in the recovery of this very limited population of trout, the findings confirm that there exists a number of pure Colorado greenback cutthroat trout populations, some of them right here in El Paso County, that can be used as brood stock.

The editorial suggested the DOW engages in “regulatory and scientific malpractice.” How so? The decisions were made more than 20 years ago based on the best science of the time. We all make decisions based on the best information available at the time; that is not malpractice, that is the nature of life. Allyn J. Kratz President Cheyenne Mountain Chapter of Trout Unlimited Colorado Springs