Conservation Biology of the Bull Trout
Because wild salmon use every nook and cranny of habitat in the mountains, the oceans, and everything in between they are a good indicator of ecosystem health. In the last 100 years wild salmon in the Columbia River have gone from abundant to commercially extinct, with several populations hanging by a thread. Wild salmon by their presence or absence give us an objective and irrefutable score card on how well we are maintaining natural capital.
Bull trout, another member of the Salmon family but in a different genus, are not as cosmopolitan as salmon. They occupy the headwaters and upper reaches of mountain streams from southern Oregon and Idaho, north through Washington, western Montana and up into British Columbia and the Yukon. Bull trout are also good indicators of ecosystem health where they occur. As roads and logging have increased in any given forest within their range, bull trout populations have tended to go down and/or disappear. Bull trout are listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act, a step below endangered status. There are many places within their range where bull trout ought to be, but aren't.
We spoke with Bruce Rieman about the natural history of bull trout and his and others' work on their conservation.