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Watershed, Fish, Wildlife, Air & Rare Plants

Bring Back the Natives - Conservation of Native Fishes

What is Bring Back the Natives?

Bring Back the Natives is a national effort by the Department of the Interior's Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Forest Service, and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to restore the health of entire riverine systems and their native species. National, State, and local partners and volunteers are matching our commitment to Bring Back the Natives! Together, we are undertaking the following vital public land management initiatives that target key habitats and animal and plant species, as well as water quality.

Fish and Wildlife 2000: A plan to improve management of fish, wildlife, and their habitats on BLM's public lands between now and the year 2000.

Riparian-Wetland Initiative for the 1990's: BLM's initiative to restore 75 percent of riparian and wetland habitats on public lands by 1977.

Rise to the Future: A program to enhance fisheries and aquatic resources on national forests and grasslands.

Every Species Counts: The Forest Service program to conserve sensitive flora and fauna and to recover threatened and endangered fish, wildlife, invertebrates, and plants.

Get Wild!: A Forest Service program that includes protection and improvement of riparian and wetland habitats, and conservation of the associated animals and plants.

What Do We need to Bring Back the Natives?

The health of our Nation's aquatic habitats seems to be delining at an alarming rate. The 1982 Nationwide Rivers Inventory found that fewer than 2 percent of our streams in the contiguous 48 States remained at "high natural quality." Many of our native fish and aquatic species such as mussels, snails, and aquatic insects are sensitive indicators of water quality and have declined as aquatic habitats have deteriorated. At least 40 species and subspecies of freshwater fish have become extinct because of habitat alteration, introduction of exotic species, pollution, or overfishing. During the past decade, there has been a 45-percent increase in the number of freshwater North American fishes at the risk of extinction. For many of these aquatic species, public lands are the last remaining stronghold of suitable habitats. This awareness must lead to constructive actions to restore these vital aquatic ecosystems.

For some streams, restoration is complex and time-consuming. For others, nature needs only a little help - such as planting trees and modifying grazing or logging practices - to restore degraded quality. However, success can only come from an effective team effort by Federal and State agencies and the private sector. It takes concerted effort, commitment, and the support of partners to get the job done and Bring Back the Natives.

Status of Aquatic Resources on Public Lands

Restoration is needed for many aquatic habitats and native fish communities. Historic impacts from improper mining techniques and livestock management, poor timber practices, and faulty road construction have degraded many habitats that are critical for conservation of biodiversity and water quality. Waters on public lands offer tremendous opportunities to improve degraded sites, recover threatened and endangered species, and conserve other rare aquatic species. The BLM and the Forest Service are committed to making the most of these opportunities, including efforts to enhance the experiences of public land visitors.

The more than 461 million acres of multiple-use lands managed by the BLM and Forest Service contain many threatened or endangered status. BLM and the National Forest System lands harbor almost 69 percent of the threatened and endangered fish species in the United States and more than one-half of those fish that are candidates for Federal listing. Conservation efforts on public lands can make a critical difference to the survival of these vulnerable species.

Who Benefits from Bring Back the Natives?

Endangered and Threatened Species: Habitat restoration, species reintroduction, and sound land management will aid the recovery of vulnerable species.

Other Sensitive Species: Conservation of entire aquatic communities will provide protection to the growing number of candidate and sensitive species that might otherwise decline further and require formal protection under the Endangered Species Act.

Recreational Anglers: Restoration and careful management of habitat for native gamefish species, such as Bonneville cutthroat trout and bull trout, will expand and diversify quality recreational fishing opportunities.

All Those Who Live Downstream: Healthy riparian vegetation along streams purifies waters by trapping silt and other pollutants, slows river flow to increase groundwater recharge, dissipates flood energy, and cools water by shading. The results are better water quality and more consistent flows.

Others: Quality riparian and wetland habitats provide the wildland setting sought by many public and land visitors wishing to simply relax and experience nature.

Disclaimers | Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) | Privacy Notice

Watershed, Fish, Wildlife, Air & Rare Plants (WFW)
Washington, D.C. Office
Author: Shelly Witt, National Continuing Education Coordinator, WFW staff
Phone: 435-881-4203
Expires: none

Photo Credits

USDA Forest Service
P.O. Box 96090
Washington, D.C. 20090-6090
(202) 205-8333