7/26/2001 -- --
July 26, 2001
(Boulder, Colo./ Salt Lake City, Utah /Jackson, Wyo.) – The Colorado, Utah and Wyoming councils of Trout Unlimited (TU), the nation’s largest coldwater fisheries organization, announced today they will join as “supporting organizations” in a long-term strategy to restore imperiled Colorado River cutthroat trout in the central Rockies. The Conservation Agreement and Strategy for Colorado River Cutthroat Trout (Agreement) is a product of fish and wildlife agencies from the three states and the Ute Indian Tribe, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service.
The Colorado River cutthroat, a spectacularly colored trout native to the central Rockies now occupies less than five percent of its historic range. Its populations have been reduced by habitat loss and degradation from livestock grazing, mining, logging and water diversions for agriculture, in addition to impacts resulting from introduced, non-native fish.
After carefully reviewing the Agreement, TU state council members and officers, in consultation with resource and policy staff from TU offices around the region, determined it incorporates the contemporary scientific principles and conservation ethic they deem necessary – combined with full funding and implementation - for such a plan to be successful. Joining the agreement as “supporting organizations” will allow the state councils to monitor implementation and progress of the Agreement over its 10-year span to assure those necessary components are maintained.
“The Agreement incorporates a lot of the newer science and conservation ideals relating to native trout, at least on a broad level,” said David Nickum, TU conservation director for the Southern Rockies. “That was essentially the clincher in our decision to sign on.”
The Agreement outlines 26 specific conservation actions agencies will undertake over a 10-year span, with the goal of more than doubling the current number of stream miles (701) occupied by Colorado River cutthroat “conservation populations,” and to nearly double the current number (211) of those distinct populations. The Agreement also sets a goal of establishing two “metapopulations” of trout – a series of connected populations within a watershed – in each major basin, something recent studies on species viability suggests is critical for long-term recovery. Strategies for achieving this goal in the Agreement include improving aquatic habitat and specific angling regulations to prevent over-harvest of native fish. The agreement includes actions for each major river drainage in 14 “distinct geographic units” in tht three-state area.
“It was important to us that the plan looks at range-wide recovery and not just museum piece populations in a few watersheds,” said Tom Krol, Chairman of TU’s Colorado Council.
One major target of the Agreement is to prevent harmful effects on the native Colorado River cutthroats from non-native introduced species. These threats include competition for food and spawning habitat, dilution of native genetics and disease. Specific actions to protect the cutthroats include the construction of migration barriers separating native cutthroat from potentially harmful interaction with non-natives, removing non-native species from Colorado River cutthroat habitat, re-introducing native cutthroat to their historic range, and careful monitoring. TU praised the Agreement for addressing the importance of preserving the native Colorado cutthroat’s genetic diversity, the product of adaptation over millennia.
“The genetics component of this agreement was a real plus for us, and we credit the agencies for that,” said Scott Yates, director of TU’s Western Native Trout Program. “Genetic diversity in native trout is a commodity you lose forever once it’s gone; so far we haven’t figured out a way to replicate 10,000 years of adaptation in a concrete hatchery raceway. So it’s critical that we work to preserve that for the continued survival of the species and the role it plays in the ecological health of these places and the various critters that live in them.”
The Agreement will complement existing efforts teaming TU with state and federal agencies. TU has a long record of collaboration on native cutthroat restoration, providing volunteers and funding through TU’s Embrace-a-Stream program.
“The Utah Council of TU is very excited about this agreement,” said Wes Johnson, Utah Council chairman. “We’ve worked tirelessly with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources supporting their Colorado River Cutthroat restoration efforts. We are currently examining how this agreement can become a vital link with Utah’s developing Blue Ribbon Fishery Program in which Utah TU is actively involved.”
Still, TU’s councils say they will watch carefully as the Agreement and its actions move along. They intend to use their “supporting organization” status to ensure the sound strategies written into the Agreement reach fruition in on-the-ground actions.
“Our support of this plan is far from a rubber stamp,” said Kathy Buchner, director of TU’s Wyoming Council. “We hope to be closely involved at every step to make sure the proper actions are taken to restore the Colorado River cutthroat to a self-sustaining, healthy status throughout its historic range.”
Contact: Kathy Buchner – Trout Unlimited, Wyoming: (307) 733-6991
Wes Johnson – Trout Unlimited, Utah: (801) 479-8846
David Nickum – Trout Unlimited, Colorado: (303) 440-2937
Scott Yates – TU Western Native Trout Director: (406) 581-3318