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Decision analysis for the reintroduction of Bull Trout into the lower Pend Oreille River, Washington

July 25, 2019

The decision to reintroduce a species can be difficult owing to conflicting opinions and objectives, as well as uncertainty of the outcome. Structured decision making addresses these considerations by identifying realistic fundamental objectives and building achievable management alternatives, within a quantitative modeling framework. The process is driven by participation of stakeholders that represent diverse objectives, policy mandates, and opinions regarding decision alternatives. We applied structured decision making to evaluate reintroduction of Bull Trout Salvelinus confluentus in the lower Pend Oreille River in northeastern Washington State. We engaged stakeholders from Tribal, municipal, county, state and federal agencies to specify fundamental objectives, formulate feasible reintroduction decisions, and conceptualize a modeling framework that includes biological information and stakeholder assumptions. Stakeholders requested iterative decision sets to determine the optimal recipient streams and release strategies. The optimal decision, based on the fundamental objective of maximizing adult abundance at year 10, was artificial propagation of 4500 juvenile Bull Trout coupled with translocation of 25 adult migrants to be reintroduced into a tributary and lake system that produced at least 18% more adult fish relative to alternatives. Sensitivity analyses were robust to the identity of the recipient stream (i.e., Sullivan Lake/Harvey Creek was always the optimal recipient stream) but suggested that maximizing the number of artificially produced juveniles released could produce a similar number of adult Bull Trout as the coupled release strategy. Results also suggested that ensuring fish passage at the Albeni Falls Dam in the mainstem Pend Oreille River could increase the abundance of adult fish. The process followed for this case study can be adapted to similar decisions regarding reintroduction or other translocations of fish in other systems.

Publication Year 2019
Title Decision analysis for the reintroduction of Bull Trout into the lower Pend Oreille River, Washington
DOI 10.1002/nafm.10334
Authors Joseph R. Benjamin, William R. Brignon, Jason B. Dunham
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title North American Journal of Fisheries Management
Index ID 70204625
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center