Until the 1970′s environmental compliance policies at the state and federal levels were very limited in the United States. Although most of the broad scale destruction to Southern Appalachian watersheds had ceased, there was still many poor land use practices from road construction, clearcutting, land development, farming practices, coal mining, etc., that still continued to occur from the 1940′s to the 1960′s and 70′s. During this period Southern Appalachian brook trout population distribution continued to decline and much of this range reduction took place in the species last stronghold – the upper headwaters of watersheds.
The chronological pictorial sequences below demonstrate how Southern Appalachian brook trout were displaced over the period of time from the 1880′s to the 1970′s:
In the 1880’s all 2nd and 3rd order stream habitat within a watershed of the primary river basins throughout the Southern Appalachians would have been capable of supporting Southern Appalachian brook trout as determined by the yellow stream reaches below.
By the 1940′s Rainbow trout introduced from the Sierra Nevada mountains would occupy the larger 3rd order streams and Southern Appalachian brook would be confined to 1st and 2nd order headwater tributaries.
During the 1960′s poor land use activities in the headwaters such as clearcutting, mining, road construction, land clearing, etc. occur with no stream protection in place to protect 1st and 2nd headwater tributaries.
During the 1960’s headwater tributaries are no longer capable of supporting Southern Appalachian brook trout and thus Southern Appalachian brook trout are forced to move downstream or perish.
By the 1970’s headwater 1st and 2nd order tributaries begin to recover and rainbow trout expand upstream and now occupy all former Southern Appalachian brook trout habitat throughout many watersheds in primary river basins throughout the Southern Appalachians.
It is important to point out that rainbow trout did not outcompete the Southern Appalachian brook trout. Instead, rainbow trout were able to become firmly established by taking advantage of an unoccupied biological niche that Southern Appalachian brook trout were extirpated from decades before. Presumably then, It is highly likely that where established populations of Southern Appalachian brook trout might exist, it would be difficult for rainbow trout to displace them.
•Wilderness Act – 1964
•National Environmental Policy Act – 1969