6/19/2000 -- -- Contact:
Melinda Kassen, Colorado Western Water Project, Trout Unlimited, (303) 440 2937
Maggie Lockwood, Press Relations Director, Trout Unlimited, (703) 284-9425
June 14, 2000, Washington, D.C...Trout Unlimited took exception to the National Ski Association of America's (NSAA) unveiling of its new Environmental Charter at the nation's capital today because the document fails to commit to protect basic water needs for fish and aquatic species. Led by its Western Water Project, TU worked with the NSAA to draft meaningful fish-friendly language for the charter, but negotiations broke down over the stresses the snowmaking industry places on America's trout streams.
"Trout Unlimited was anxious to reach consensus on language about snowmaking water withdrawals. We wanted a provision that would have ensured enough water in streams to allow fish to survive," said TU's Colorado Western Water Director Melinda Kassen.
"Unfortunately, we were unable to endorse a document that chalks fishery health up to ambiguous terms like 'sensitive to fish' and failed to embrace voluntary steps to ensure the health of both fisheries and the ski industry."
The NSAA Charter commits signatory ski areas to "conduct snowmaking in a manner that protects minimum stream flow and is sensitive to fish and wildlife." Trout Unlimited sought simple charter language that would have stated, "ski areas will conduct snowmaking in a manner that protects fisheries."
"On its face, the charter language might sound reasonable," explained Kassen. "However, if you were a fish, you wouldn't feel as though you had taken much from the negotiation table. Snowmaking places tremendous stress on fish by taking massive amounts of water out of streams during the fall and winter. These are already naturally low flow periods in our rivers when the fish are strained. Taking more water-- no matter how NSAA chooses to phrase it--hurts the fish."
In the case of American fisheries, the Charter represents the status quo by failing to commit to environmental protections beyond compliance with state laws (in many states there are not even laws to protect minimum flows, which essentially means that portions of streams can be drained and dried up entirely for months out of the year). In too many streams, trout eggs are literally suffocating due to lack of water.
While our nation's ski industries are not only physically expanding, they are also seeking to extend ski season. Native and wild trout populations are proving no match for humanity's relentless quest for water. Currently, ski areas nationwide are trying to open their slopes in October - two months before the beginning of winter.
"Trout Unlimited remains hopeful that that we can work with the ski industry in the future to mitigate their significant adverse impacts to fisheries," said Kassen.
Established in 1998, Trout Unlimited's Western Water Project fights to ensure that fish and rivers have enough water to survive and flourish. The project, in cooperation with WaterWatch of Oregon, works to restore and protect water in key Western rivers where diversions for irrigation, industry, and growing cities have depleted 'living' stream flows, and threaten fish stocks.