Foreign Species Lawsuit Position Statement

Crucial Junction
Will Spring Creek continue to reign as Oklahoma’s most pristine natural stream, used as a biological reference and managed by landowners? Or will it convert to a trout fishery, used as a recreational destination and managed by politicians/government?  It can not be both.

Spring Creek Watershed represents the epitome of natural resource conservation.  Twenty years of physical, chemical and biological data has been collected, archived and
utilized by biologists, conservation agencies and students of all ages.  Landowners are united, self educated and actively involved in its preservation. 

The focus of management and available resources has recently shifted; from the natural to the unnatural, from long-term sustainability to short-term gratification, from social benefit to political favoritism.

Spring Creek
Spring Creek is a spring-fed, large Ozark stream which maintains an average temperature of 72 degrees. It is 34 miles long spanning Delaware, Cherokee and
Mayes counties from the headwaters to the point of discharge into Ft. Gibson Reservoir.  Spring Creek is relatively unaltered and is designated as a “High Quality Water
Resource” by the Oklahoma Water Resources Board. Grand River Dam Authority has jurisdiction over Spring Creek and permits its use as a municipal water source. With the
exception of Corps of Engineer land at the mouth, all adjacent property is privately owned.  The stream is non-navigable. Spring Creek Supports:
• 279 species of macroinvertebrates; over 50% of Oklahoma’s Mayfly collection records come from this one stream.
• 30 species of fish, including the genetically distinct Neosho Smallmouth Bass;  70% of these fish have strict habitat requirements.
• Fish classified as “Species of Federal Interest”, one reported to be the only surviving population in Oklahoma.

Commission
The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation is a state agency.  It is governed by a citizen board of eight “Commissioners”, appointed by the governor.  The Commission “constitutes an advisory, administrative and policymaking board for the - protection, restoration, perpetuation, conservation, supervision, maintenance, enhancement and management of wildlife in this state.”

Law
 “No person shall release fish in any public waters... without the consent of the Wildlife Conservation Director”. The seriousness of such action was perceived thirty (30) years ago when this law was adopted.

Consequences
Current knowledge of non-indigenous species has scientifically verified:
• Nonnative species were a factor in 24 of 30 known cases of a native fish species becoming extinct.
• Non-native fish may carry diseases and parasites which can have numerous effects on receiving eco-systems.

Problem
ODWC has permitted two consecutive trout introductions.  These fish demonstrated the ability to convert their diet to natural prey, displace native fish, travel as far as Ft. Gibson reservoir and most importantly survive the summer season. Rather than err on the side of caution ODWC is considering a third permit based on lack of evidence that the exotics are causing significant damage. Yet the Department acknowledges:
• Exotic introductions are potentially harmful to the Spring Creek eco-system.
• The degree of impact which would “officially” warrant permit denial has not been defined.
• A comprehensive plan for damage assessment has not been implemented.
• Professional resources necessary to implement such a plan, if there was one, exceed the departments capabilities.

Reason for Problem
The permit applicants are a small “club” of influential men who want the convenience of catching concentrated, hatchery reared exotics in a pure and wild environment.  The club members are extremely influential people.  Some ODWC Commissioners have direct business relationships with many of the club’s members.  This is the source of pressure which has caused ODWC to compromise Department policy.

Spring Creek Coalition (SCC)
SCC advocates the right and responsibility of citizens to protect their natural resources. Incorporated in 1994 as a non for profit organization, SCC is a total volunteer effort which has accomplished national recognition.
Mission - Unite stakeholders and actively engage in the preservation of Spring Creek.
Goals - Ensure ongoing chemical, physical and biological monitoring consistent with
protocol of State agencies also educational outreach for all children and adults.
• Provide support to individuals who foresee a threat to the integrity of the watershed.
Activities - Educational meetings on better land management practices, public
forums on current issues, volunteer monitoring, tree plantings, trash clean-ups,
newsletters, tours and field days.

Issue
ODWC has confused “responsibility” with “privilege.”  They have invaded a perfectly healthy, responsibly managed eco-system.  The past seven years has demonstrated that this issue is not being decided upon the principals of science or law or social benefit.  Regarding other important issues threatening Spring Creek; landowners who want so and biological management would wisely begin by eliminating the “option” of political favoritism.