Wilderness status complicates grayling fix in Red Rocks refuge


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Montana Trout Unlimited want to find a way to create more dissolved oxygen in a shallow lake where a diminishing population of Arctic grayling overwinters in the Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge.

No easy task, as it turns out. And there’s clearly a sense of urgency.

One key challenge is the reality that Upper Red Rock Lake, which hosts the fish in winter, is within a wilderness area where restrictions would typically preclude a host of interventions that might require power-driven equipment, machinery like a dredge, and the like.

On Feb. 28, the Fish and Wildlife Service released a draft environmental assessment that described six alternatives, with five meant to enhance winter habitat for the grayling by increasing dissolved oxygen levels in deeper portions of Upper Red Rock Lake. The sixth was a no-action alternative.

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The service initially set a 15-day period for public comment but lengthened it to March 28 after objections about an atypically brief comment period.

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working to balance the need of having an overwintering habitat solution in place for

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