Climate Change is quickly emerging as a key threat to fish and fish habitat as the hydrologic cycle changes. Drought, changes in runoff and flow patterns, and the increasing risk of wildfire could cause additional stress to aquatic ecosystems in the arid West. Therefore, a greater focus on aquatic habitat conservation is essential for native fish species to thrive over the long term.
The BLM Fisheries Program works to ensure that sites of high renewable energy production potential (for hydropower, wind, solar, and geothermal energy) and transmission corridors linking these sites to the grid are developed in a way that addresses the needs of aquatic resources. As part of the New Energy for America Plan, the licensing and relicensing of hydropower projects creates a significant opportunity to direct the development of license conditions to conserve fisheries resources so that Federal trust responsibilities are met for the next 30-50 years.
The spread of aquatic invasive species poses another challenge. These invaders threaten native fish communities, transforming entire food webs and clogging water pipes. The spread of aquatic invasive species, such as the quagga mussel, New Zealand mudsnail, and zebra mussel, is largely due to recreational use (boating, fishing gear, waders, etc.); water development projects (transwatershed diversions); and fire suppression (use of infected water in watersheds not yet infected). The BLM’s Fisheries Program addresses these threats in part by working with counterparts in State and other Federal agencies, and through the national interagency Aquatic Nuisance Species Task Force and its Western Regional Panel.
The quagga mussels shown here were found attached to the hull of a boat at Lake Mead National Recreation Area in Nevada. These invasive mussels, related to zebra mussels, have been spreading rapidly after first being detected west of the Rockies only a few years ago.
A primary method of spread is on boats, in bait buckets, and other water-related equipment. They also stick to aquatic vegetation. BLM is working with States and other partners to combat this invasion which threatens native aquatic species. Boaters can help by cleaning, inspecting and draining water from their boats before moving them to new lakes.
Photo by David Britton, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Education is Key to Aquatic Invasive Species Management
The BLM and other government and non government offices work together to educate boaters and other recreationists about how they can help control or prevent aquatic invasive species in lakes and rivers.
For example, in Lakeside, Oregon, BLM, the US Forest Service, Oregon State agencies, and local watershed councils provide training sessions for the public during boating season.
It is hoped that a more involved, vigilant public will help prevent invaders such as the Brazilian waterweed, also called elodea, from being dumped into recreational waterways. Brazilian elodea is a common aquarium plant, but when released into lakes, can get tangled in boat motors and hinder swimming.
It is not just recreation that is affected, however. BLM deals with many aquatic invaders that can threaten the survival of small fish, altering the food chain in some aquatic ecosystems. The BLM and Utah State University, through the National Aquatic Monitoring Center (bug lab ), conducts educational sessions on aquatic invasive species throughout the Intermountain West.
If you are a boater or water recreationist, learn more about what you can do. The following links provide more information.
Department of Agriculture's National Invasive Species Information Center
Aquatic Nuisance Species Task Force
ANS Western Regional Panel
National Invasive Species Council
Photo: Loon Lake, on the coast of Southern Oregon, is a popular BLM-managed recreation site, drawing more than 50,000 visitors a year. However, Brazilian waterweed and other aquatic invasive plants make boating, fishing and swimming more difficult.