Like many Lahontan cutthroat trout watersheds in northern Nevada, habitat degradation and fragmentation from poor land use practices has reduced historically robust populations of Lahontan cutthroat trout to a few, isolated remnants in the Willow Creek watershed. In the headwaters above Willow Creek reservoir, Nelson and Lewis creeks once supported two connected populations of Lahontan cutthroat trout amongst lush riparian vegetation and clean, cool water. Decades of intense grazing and water diversions for ranching operations have reduced this watershed to a harsh landscape with few fish.
In 2004, Barrick Goldstrike Mines, the Bureau of Land Management, and U.S. Agricultural Research Service initiated a series of experimental prescription grazing practices geared towards watershed restoration. As part of these efforts, project partners including Trout Unlimited are conducting detailed monitoring of riparian and upland conditions, aquatic habitat, Lahontan cutthroat trout populations, benthic invertebrate communities, and water quantity and quality. Changing current grazing protocols within the Willow Creek drainage will increase watershed health by implementing a change at the source of the problem and will provide data to evaluate potentially significant rangeland management and restoration tools. Many cutthroat trout streams in the West are impacted by poor grazing practices, but lack of empirical data on the benefits of prescription changes continues to support the status quo.
1020 W. Main St., Ste. 440
Boise, ID 83702
Contact Dana DeGraaf