, Volume 4, Issue 4, pp 287-295

The Wilderness Act and Fish Stocking: An Overview of Legislation, Judicial Interpretation, and Agency Implementation

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Many high-elevation lakes in designated wilderness are stocked with native and nonnative fish by state fish and game agencies to provide recreational fishing opportunities. In several areas, this practice has become controversial with state wildlife managers who support historical recreational use of wilderness, federal wilderness managers who assert that stocking compromises some of the ecological and social values of wilderness, and different public groups that support one or the other position. Herein we examine this controversy from the perspective of the 1964 Wilderness Act, its judicial interpretation, the policies of the federal agencies, and formal agreements between federal and state agencies. Although some state stocking programs restore native fish populations, other programs may compromise some of the ecological and social values of wilderness areas. Further, although current federal regulations recognize state authority for fish stocking, judicial interpretation gives federal agencies the authority for direct involvement in decisions regarding fish stocking in wilderness. Where there are differences of opinion between state and federal managers, this judicial interpretation strongly points to the need for improved cooperation, communication, and coordination between state wildlife managers and federal wilderness managers to balance recreational fishing opportunities and other wildlife management activities with wilderness values.

Received 28 March 2000; Accepted 16 August 2000.