Thursday, January 5, 2012

Why Native Trout?

Ted Williams, one of the most vocal and adamant conservation writers out there, answered a few questions in the most recent issue of Trout Magazine. One of the questions that he answered is "How are native trout special?" and he gives one of the best answers I've seen to date.
"Native trout are special in the way that all wild creatures are special -- not because they're beautiful (although they are), not because they're fun to catch (although they are), no because they're good to eat (although they are), not because they "are" anything, but simply because they are...."
TU members can read the whole interview either online or in the print version of the magazine.

UPDATE: You can find the complete Ted Williams interview on the TU Blog


  1. In my opinion, one of the values of "nativeness" is similar to the broader value of organisms in general that makes their disappearance (i.e. extinction) a tragedy, and that is this: when an animal or plant goes extinct, a unique history that is (usually) millions of years old is forever erased. So, while organisms have practical value, in that they might play a functional role in their ecosystem, they have this other value. I see it as very similar to the value something like, for instance, a beautiful and famous painting or musical composition. The disappearance of a famous painting (in a fire, let's say) might not have substantial practical consequences, but I see it as a tragedy. To me, the same is true when a species goes extinct, or is wiped out from part of its native range. I have to suspect that people who don't feel likewise must also view the value of paintings and musical compositions only in how they translate directly into dollars and cents.

  2. Great interview...thanks for the link!

    And T.J., I really like your analogy to native species and artwork. Nicely put.

  3. TJ: Well said. Those works of art swimming in our streams are truly irreplaceable.

    E: You're welcome.

  4. The mind plays tricks with this. Or does it? I am a native of the UK - proud as punch too. I get the importance of "nativeness" on a person level, which is probably heightened now that I am, in the strictest terms, an "invasive".

    I still haven't got my head around where invading stops and nativity starts. Ya'll are native Americans to me, though among my friends only TJ still sleeps in a wigwam, as far as I know.

  5. I think that from a strictly semantic perspective, it's a little ill-defined, and maybe then largely academic.

    But from the ecological perspective that I take, the problem with non-natives, when there is a problem, is when they displace something native to the point of local extinction, hence erasing that legacy I mentioned above. What this means is that I'm not going to get my panties in a bunch over every single non-native species or Englishman, but I will when they seem to threatening the very existence of something that cannae be replaced. If the historical, genetic, evolutionary, etc. legacy of a unique population of cutthroats (or of cutthroats in general) were to vanish because of an introduced fish (particularly one that is thriving elsewhere, where it should stay), then I think it's worth taking note of (and stopping).

    The issue, as you well know, is that a species could expand its range, "naturally" (i.e. without any help from us) and still drive some other native out, or out of existence. Well, then what?

    I don't know.

    But, I think the majority of cases don't fall into the gray areas.

  6. I agree with you. The gray areas do exist though, mostly because one man's brook trout is another man's nasty fragmites. We all have our special animals and plants. The RSPB preserves birds at all cost, including to fish populations. Who wins? The wealthiest lobby, obviously.

    I take the ecological view too, but rather annoyingly my head gets stuck in the academic argument that suggests that all living things invade; their stability is only ever temporary, evolution being constant etc etc blah blah. At least, I think this is a good theoretical (moral?) starting point. There's something about human subjectivity that doesn't sit well here - many of our introductions were as well intended as our efforts to eradicate unwanted species. So I completely agree in practical terms about taking note of, and stopping, colonization of some species. As long as they're not carp.

  7. TJ: Nipping this stuff early is the key. One of the articles in Trout Magazine talked about the Lake Trout eradication efforts in Yellowstone and how difficult it has been. Apparently in Idaho, they got started much earlier in stomping these creatures out and have at least achieved detente.

    EJ: Carp would, of course, be excluded.