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Brook Trout in Lake Colden Prove We Can Heal the Earth

Conservation, Nature Center

Not long ago, I read a heartening article in New York State Conservationist magazine. The article was about the discovery of brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) in Lake Colden, a small lake in the High Peaks Wilderness of Adirondack Park in upstate New York.  Finding brook trout in a remote, high mountain lake might not seem that remarkable. But acid rain over the second half of the 20th century made the water of many of the Adirondack lakes, especially the high elevation ones, so acidic that fish couldn’t live in them. According to the article, when biologists looked for fish in Lake Colden in 1970, they found not a single one. The same was true all the way through the last survey in 2011.  

So when a fisherman reported that he had caught a brook trout in Lake Colden last summer, it got the attention of the state Department of Environmental Conservation. Investigation soon discovered the brook trout were back. They apparently recolonized on their own by traveling upstream from the brooks and streams that lead out of Lake Colden.

The return of New York’s state fish is good news for Lake Colden, but the larger picture is even more important. Testing shows that the acidity of Lake Colden and other Adirondack lakes has dropped and is continuing to drop. They are once again becoming suitable for fish.

All the efforts to reduce sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions from power plants have paid off.  It took a couple of decades, but the return of brook trout to Lake Colden is proof.  What we do matters!

That’s why I am especially distressed when I read that our U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is relaxing the emissions protections that have done so much to make the air cleaner – and make high mountain lakes livable for brook trout again.

We are making progress.  We are learning how to heal the earth.  It makes no sense to go backwards.

– Tom Pelletier, Chair of CEED

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