Last semester I was enrolled in the Capstone course that was completely centered around the Great Plains region. Using the Great Plains as a backdrop and conceptual framework, my partner and I created a coffee table book: The Great Plains: A Collection of Works Exhibiting its Past and Perseverance. (We applied for funds to print the book, but are currently waiting for a response back from the school).
We wanted our book to feature work from as many artists and writers as possible to really encompass what people believe is significant about the region. So we asked our others to contribute. One of those contributors was my boyfriend.
I would like to share the research that he presented in this post:
As a result of the settling of the Great Plains, the species of fish found in the Great Plains has drastically changed. When fish species are introduced to new waters, they may have large scale effects on the species that are native by out-competing them for food. Also, nonnative fish may prey on the native species and threaten their populations. By introducing outside fish species, whether it be for food sources or for sport, humans drastically changed the waters of the Great Plains.
According to Daryl Bauer, a fisheries manager for the state of Nebraska, warm water fish species such as largemouth bass, northern pike, and bluegill were likely native to parts of western Nebraska and the Great Plains. However, these species have been transplanted and stocked heavily by European Americans while they moved out west into waters where they wouldn’t be found naturally. Species like largemouth bass and pike are very aggressive, and by introducing them to unnatural waters, the fish would then consume large amounts of the smaller fish. Many warm water fish species that aren’t native to the Nebraska Great Plains, such as common carp and rock bass, were introduced by European Americans as they moved west. Common carp are a species that are particularly destructive and harmful to native fishes.
In addition to warm water species of fish, nonnative cold water fish species have been introduced to the Great Plains of Nebraska. In areas such as Crawford, Chadron, and Valentine, where there are cold water creeks and rivers, several trout species were introduced that are not natural. Brown trout from Europe, brook trout from the eastern US, and rainbow trout from the west coast were planted in many of these cold water streams. Also according to Bauer, cutthroat trout may have also existed in cold Nebraska streams naturally before the Great Plains were settled. By introducing other nonnative species of trout to these waters, humans may have unintentionally extirpated the natural populations forever. Bauer stated that it is a large topic of debate with fish biologists—whether cutthroats were native to Nebraska. The settlers and explorers of the Great Plains documented green trout with black spots in the Nebraska territory, and there are even specimens in the Smithsonian Museums that were taken from the Nebraska Territory by explorers. However, it is unclear where the fish were collected from, and if they were actually found in Nebraska. Today, cutthroats are found in some cold streams in Nebraska as a result of stocking for fishing.