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For many anglers, the Owyhee is a "bucket list" destination. Synonymous with big trout in a gorgeous, almost magical setting. The Owyhee Basin is located in northern Nevada, southwestern Idaho, and southeastern Oregon and provides some of the last best habitat for unique ‘desert-type’ interior redband trout. Although somewhat lesser known to anglers than their high-profile ‘steelhead’ cousins, interior redbands provide a worthy angling quarry for those who search for them. These feisty fish live in some of the most rugged, remote, and majestic landscapes in the West, and they provide adventurous anglers with a very unique fishing experience. Unfortunately, water diversions, livestock grazing and introduced non-native trout have drastically reduced redband populations during the past century and climate change during the next century threatens to drive the remaining populations into extinction. TU’s Owyhee Basin Redband Trout Restoration project is working to ensure that this special river provides redband populations with the necessary protections so that they continue to persist in the Owyhee Basin as the climate changes.
Trout Unlimited’s Science Team recently assessed the habitat and vegetation across the Owyhee Basin, which identifies places where fish need the most help and where TU can apply its expertise to restore these areas. We're using that analysis to do on-the-ground restoration to protect these fish so that they can move within the river and establish themselves and remain viable. Working with federal and state agencies and private landowners, TU is focusing on protecting coldwater springs, which provide important summer refuge areas for redband trout. We're also planting native plants and keeping livestock out of streams to improve river conditions. We're also helping to rejoin areas of the river so isolated redband populations can have improved access to habitat.
We're just getting started on what will be a landmark project for redband trout to withstand the pressures of climate change.
Pam Harrington, Project Coordinatorpharrington@tu.org
Western Restoration Program Director
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