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TU in Action: Bringing native fish home; reclaiming a golf course; saving water, and more

Conservation might seem like a straight-forward enterprise, but anybody who has worked to protect or restore even a single stream in a larger watershed knows that it is actually quite nuanced. Anything involving people and the waters and fish they love is going to be complicated.

In southwest Colorado, that’s no different.

This week, on Hermosa Creek and East Hermosa Creek, two important tribiutaries of the Animas River, Colorado Parks and Wildlife biologists will kill non-native fish, all for the sake of reintroducing pure-strain Colorado River cutthroat trout to sections of these creeks that are protected from upstream migration of non-native fish by barrier waterfalls that were actually constructed by the U.S. Forest Service and the Five Rivers Chapter of Trout Unlimited, based in Durango.

Consider the work TU’s volunteers did the home construction phase. Once the non-native trout—mostly introduced brook trout and rainbows—are confirmed gone, the native trout will be allowed to move in, and, in short order, anglers will get the chance to once again cast to and catch the fish that actually belong in this watershed.

No, it won’t happen overnight. Once “treated” with a plant-based piscicide, the sections of the creek will be left barren over the winter. Next spring, CPW will shock the water and see if any non-natives turn up. If they’re all gone, the native fish will be brought back. If any non-natives survived, the creeks will likely be treated again until all the interloping fish are gone. Only then will Colorado River cutthroat trout be reintroduced. And it might be a while before that population is deemed “fishable.”

This is not a new practice—it’s been used for decades to reintroduce native trout throughout their native ranges. It works, it’s relatively free of risk and it’s not massively expensive. But the outcome—native fish in their native waters—is the real prize. And it’s great to have our volunteers working at the fore of this important effort.

Here’s what else is happening in the TU universe today:

Every day, TU is in the news all across America. If you have some great chapter news to report, send me an e-mail and we’ll do our best to let the rest of the world know that the work you do is part of a grand plan to make fishing better. For everyone.

— Chris Hunt