Scientists detail agenda to save Southwest native trout


April 20, 2016


Randy Scholfield,, 720-375-3961

Jack Williams,, 541-261-3960

Mike Anderson,, 623-236-7653

Scientists detail agenda to preserve Southwest native trout

Trout Unlimited says collaboration key to saving Americas most imperiled trout

(Phoenix)Scientists, anglers and trout enthusiasts from conservation groups such as Trout Unlimited and federal and state wildlife agencies will gather in Phoenix this week at the annual Southwest Native and Wild Trout Conference to address the threats to native Southwest trout species, which in recent years have suffered devastating impacts from wildfires, drought, non-native species, climate change and other pressures. The event is co-hosted by the Arizona Game & Fish Department and Trout Unlimited.

Although many people do not associate the arid Southwest with trout, the cool headwater streams of Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico once teemed with native troutincluding Apache trout in the Arizonas upper Salt River and upper Little Colorado River watersheds; Gila trout in the Gila River basin in New Mexico and Arizona; and Rio Grande cutthroat trout in the high mountain headwaters of the Rio Grande and other rivers in Colorado, New Mexico, and west Texas.

In recent decades, invasions by non-native trout and other species has been the greatest threat. Non-native trout hybridize with native Apache trout and swamp the genes of the native fish. Managers often build small dams to isolate the native trout in small headwater streams. But in recent years, these isolated populations have proved especially vulnerable to wildfires, drought and other climate change related disturbances. Now managers must face a new reality as they struggle to recover the three native trout of the Southwest. The annual conference offers networking and planning sessions for biologists and conservationists representing more than 35 agencies and organizations involved in conservation and recovery of native trout habitat in New Mexico and Arizona.

We can do more by working togetherthe conference is a great opportunity to take a pulse check on our current recovery strategy and adapt to new challenges, said Jack Williams, senior scientist for Trout Unlimited. Southwest native trout are survivorsbut today, theyre facing a one-two punch of climate change and invading non-native species. We need to act now to protect these rare, beautiful species, before its too late.

Trout Unlimited last year launched a new campaign, the Southwest Native Trout Strategy (SWNTS), aimed at protecting these Southwest natives through ramped-up restoration, reconnection, reintroduction and monitoring efforts involving tribes and federal and state agencies including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service, the Departments of Game and Fish in New Mexico, Arizona and the Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

In Arizona, projects in the works include:

increasing the resilience of native trout to climate change and drought by reconnecting watersheds and creating larger, more interconnected populations.

expanding stream restoration projects with AZ TU grassroots chapters taking the lead.

conducting research on climate change impacts and trout genetics in conjunction with state agency scientists and universities.

In New Mexico, 2016 projects include:

  • Restoring Gila trout to 24 miles of Whitewater Creek in Catron County, where a Gila trout population was wiped out by massive wildfires in 2012.
  • TU Science staff and volunteers working with agencies and New Mexico State University to initiate a long-term stream temperature monitoring program for Gila trout streams in NM and AZthis is the first year of a multi-year project.
  • Completing a fish migration barrier on the Rio Costilla in northern New Mexico to protect a population of Rio Grande cutthroat trout from non-native fish.

For anglers, Southwest native trout provide abundant recreational opportunities to pursue rare and beautiful trout found nowhere else on Earth, in remote, rugged landscapes of wild grandeur. These trout are also a rich part of our cultural and biological heritage here in the Southwest. They are worth protecting and preserving, said Steve LaFalce, president of TUs Arizona Council.

We all have a huge opportunity in the near future to do some really good things for Gila and Apache trout, not only to improve the overall status of the species, but to provide anglers in Arizona the chance to fish for a couple of species found nowhere else in the world, said Mike Anderson, Native Trout Coordinator for Arizona Fish and Game Department.

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What: 7th Annual Southwest Native and Wild Trout Conference

Where: Arizona Game and Fish Department headquarters, 5000 W. Carefree Highway, Phoenix, AZ

When: Thursday, April 21, 2016, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Who: Sponsored by the Arizona Game and Fish Department and the Arizona Trout Unlimited state council.

Media: Experts available to discuss threats to Southwest native trout, current science and protection efforts include:

Jack Williams, senior scientist of Trout Unlimited.

Brad Powell, Southwest region director for Trout Unlimited, who coordinates TUs SW native trout restoration campaign.

Mike Anderson, Native Trout Specialist for the Arizona Game & Fish Department

Contact Randy Scholfield, TUs Southwest region communications director, to arrange an interview:, 720-375-3961.

Not able to attend in person? Register for webinar with complete conference proceedings:

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar. View System Requirements

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Trout Unlimited is the nations largest coldwater conservation organization, with 147,000 members dedicated to conserving, protecting, and restoring North Americas trout and salmon fisheries and their watersheds.