ABOUT THE FISHERIES AND AQUATICS PROGRAM

The BLM manages fish habitat national and regionally through shared science and outreach strategies outlined below.

Habitat Restoration

The BLM manages a highly diverse number of aquatic ecosystems and habitat throughout the nation.  Since 2000, the BLM and its partners annually improved an average of 250 miles of stream, 2,600 acres of lakes and reservoirs, and conducted maintenance on 300 fish habitat projects.

Aquatic Organism Passage

Fish and other aquatic organisms need to be able to move around in their habitats, called organism passage.  For example, fish will need to find areas to spawn to ensure the species is maintained. And when seasons change, many organisms respond by moving to different areas for shelter and food.  The BLM addresses organism passage over the 78,000 miles of road on BLM-managed public lands.  The agency works to eliminate passage problems at stream culverts, water diversions, channel head-cuts, and low-water stream crossings.

By working with state, federal, and private partners, the program focuses on reconnecting high-priority habitats throughout the West.  Partners identify problem areas through inventories, and then come up with solutions that improve organism passage.  Examples of some solutions include constructing new crossings; researching the effectiveness of “fish friendly” culvert designs; and maintaining and monitoring projects.

Climate Change

Climate change poses serious risks and management challenges to the way the BLM manages inland freshwater ecosystems (e.g., lakes, streams, rivers, wetlands) and coastal wetlands.  For example, cold-water fish are projected to disappear from large portions of their current geographic range as streams become more sporadic and warmer.  Meanwhile, warm-water fish may expand their ranges as surface waters warm.  Also, warmer waters increase the chances of more frequent and widespread nuisance algal blooms that affect water quality.

Our national program strategy for Fisheries and Aquatic Resources is to:

  • Ensure that organisms can travel among connected networks of streams.
  • Facilitate the movement of species, or establish additional species populations, so that those populations will continue to reproduce in isolated aquatic ecosystems, for example isolated desert spring systems.
  • Ensure that there is enough water with qualities that allow for biological and watershed functions. 
  • Ensure natural levels of nutrients in a habitat. 
  • Limit the spread of invasive or non-native species.

Aquatic Invasive Species

The spread of aquatic invasive species can make life more challenging for native ecosystems and fish communities.  When an invasive species is introduced, competition for food may increase.  Also, as invasive species begin to establish themselves, their activities may create physical barriers that affect other organisms.  For example, invasive algae may create clogged pipes that block fish from connected bodies of water.  Invasive species may be introduced through boating or fishing gear.  Water development projects and fire suppression can also spread invasive species through transferring water.

The BLM’s program strategy is to:

  • Prevent the introduction, spread, and establishment of aquatic invasive species.
  • Reduce the impact of invasive species by using best management practices, such as boat inspections and equipment decontamination.
  • Develop and enhance the capacity to identify, report, and respond to newly discovered and localized invasive species.
  • Restore native species and habitat conditions, and rehabilitate ecosystems and ecological processes impacted by aquatic invasive species and / or promote natural resistance to invasion.
  • Maximize awareness, collaboration, and the ability to respond when it comes to aquatic invasive species issues among federal, state, local and tribal governments, private organizations, and individuals. 
  • Support public education and outreach efforts to promote the awareness and prevention of invasive species introductions.

Education and Outreach

We want to increase the public’s understanding of aquatic resource management and science.  

BLM’s  program strategy is to:

  • Create educational materials on BLM-managed aquatic resources.
  • Conduct activities that increase public awareness of aquatic invasive species threats and issues.
  • Promote scientific research efforts that address fisheries, aquatic, and riparian issues on BLM-managed public lands.
  • Showcase the BLM as a model for working with urban and rural communities through strong partnerships.
  • Develop new opportunities for youth, families, and local communities to participate in BLM aquatic resource management activities.
  • Develop internship and mentorship relationships that expand education and career development options for students interested in fisheries and aquatic resource management.
  • Promote the physical and mental benefits, and social aspects of BLM fishing-related experiences.
  • Share responsibility as natural resource stewards with other BLM programs, federal and state agencies, tribal entities, local governments and the public.

Research and Monitoring

The program uses high-quality data that are collected from monitoring fish and invertebrate populations, fish habitat, stream conditions, and other environmental features.  The BLM also works with Utah State University to manage the National Aquatic Monitoring Center, which provides field offices with baseline information to assess conditions and evaluate the performance of various habitat projects and land-management decisions.