Ladies on the upper Owens. Photos courtesy JGFLYFISH.
By Jessica Strickland
Recently work took me to Bishop, California, which has got to be one of the best places to live or visit, ever.
Let me count the ways: Mule Days. Schat’s Bakkery. The Inyo National Forest in your backyard.
And, of course, the Owens River, one of this state’s best trout streams.
I was in Bishop to meet with the Forest Service about the process for revising the Inyo’s Forest Plan, and to clarify TU’s position on grazing in the golden trout’s native range – the glorious Kern Plateau.
By coincidence (of course), my meeting coincided with the closing weekend of the general trout season on the Upper Owens. So I met a crew from the Sierra Pacific Fly Fishers, and am happy to say the Owens did not let us down. Several folks had 10+ fish days that included large colored-up browns and rainbows. Debbie Sharpton, Conservation Chair of the Southwest Council of the Federation of Fly Fishers (at right), was especially productive.
The recipe for success – Frenchies.
But I digress. Trout Unlimited has worked for years to protect and restore the golden trout – California’s state fish -- in the Inyo and Sequoia National Forests. We’ve taken a holistic approach. We protected headwaters by securing Wilderness and Wild & Scenic River designations in 2009. We put TU’s Conservation Science Index to work to prioritize watershed and golden trout fisheries management. We've worked with ranchers and the Forest Service to set up and take down fencing to protect meadow streams and riparian areas in grazing allotments.
In fact, the Forest Service just released their analysis from a 10-year “resting” of two allotments on the Plateau, and in spring 2014 the agency will release an Environmental Impact Statement for grazing on the remaining allotments in the Golden Trout Wilderness.
All over the West, TU has built partnerships with ranchers to support our trout and salmon conservation goals. We have a prime opportunity to continue this tradition on the Kern Plateau, and conserve the heritage of both ranching and fishing for golden trout.
And this week the Inyo’s draft forest assessment was released, which describes forest conditions and provides baseline data to help revise and update the forest management plan. Check it out -- and help TU provide useful feedback to the Forest Service on how best to conserve, protect and restore habitat and fishing opportunities on the Inyo National Forest.
Jessica Strickland is California Field Coordinator for Trout Unlimited.