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News Release

Date: September 11, 2012

New publication assesses trends in the nation’s fish and aquatic resources

FORT COLLINS, Colo., Sept. 11, 2012 – The importance of healthy aquatic ecosystems pertains to everyone as it affects the ecological and economic benefits to society from safe drinking water to healthy and abundant fish populations that provide food for consumers and sustain recreational opportunities for anglers. A newly released report by the U.S. Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station focuses on assessing the trends in the health of these ecosystems.

The scientific assessment, “Fish and Other Aquatic Resource Trends in the United States,” documents the trends in aquatic habitat quality, populations, resource use, and patterns of endangerment among aquatic fauna across the nation. The report, written as part of the Resources Planning Act Assessment, provides an update on fishery and aquatic resource trends that have been presented on nearly a 10-year cycle since 1980.

In the report, co-authors, Andrew Loftus, natural resource consultant, and Curtis Flather, research ecologist at the Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fort Collins, Colo., provide a series of case studies that look at the relationships between land use, water quality, and aquatic species conditions.

The trends presented in this scientific assessment are important to natural resource land managers as they move to a more holistic ecosystem approach and strive to sustain the goods and services that the public derives from aquatic systems.

Key findings include:

  • Freshwater habitat quality varied widely across the United States. Nationwide, 28 percent of small stream miles were rated as being in “good” condition. However, some regions had a much higher percentage reaching a maximum of 46 percent in the Western Mountains, whereas other regions had a much lower percentage reaching a low of 13 percent in the Northern Appalachians. (Click here to view map)
  • Pacific salmon have declined throughout much of their range, although stocks native to Alaska have fared better than those in the Pacific Northwest. Of the 52 distinct populations of salmon and steelhead in the Pacific Northwest, 28 are currently listed under the federal Endangered Species Act. Eight of these are considered to be “danger of extinction” and 19 “likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future.”
  • Species such as fish, crayfish, aquatic insects, etc. that live in or around aquatic habitats, are more likely to be at-risk of extinction than species not living in these environments. At-risk aquatic species occur nationwide but are particularly concentrated in watersheds occurring in the southern Appalachians and the southeastern coastal plain.
  • Fishing remains the most popular form of outdoor recreation that is dependent upon the nation’s wildlife and fish resources. Surveys conducted at five-year intervals during the time period of 1991-2006 revealed a decline in the number of anglers, but a similar number of days devoted to fishing.
To read the report online, visit http://www.treesearch.fs.fed.us/pubs/41241, or to request a printed copy (available after Sept. 24, 2012) call (970) 498-1393 and reference RMRS-GTR-283.

The RMRS is one of seven regional units that make up the U.S. Forest Service Research and Development organization – the most extensive natural resources research organization in the world. The Station maintains 12 field laboratories throughout a 12-state territory encompassing the Great Basin, Southwest, Rocky Mountains, and parts of the Great Plains, and administers and conducts research on 14 experimental forests, ranges, and watersheds, while maintaining long-term databases for these areas. RMRS research is broken into seven science program areas that serve the Forest Service as well as other federal and state agencies, international organizations, private groups, and individuals. To find out more about the RMRS go to www.fs.fed.us/rmrs. You can also follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/rmrs_hq.


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