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Re: NFC: cutthroat trout in deep creek (fwd)




Release Date: 04/29/1999

THREE STATE AGREEMENT TO ASSIST RECOVERY OF COLORADO RIVER CUTTHROAT
TROUT



The vision of Colorado River cutthroat trout swimming freely and
reproducing naturally in their historic range is a big step closer to
reality today. 
The Colorado Division of Wildlife has signed an agreement with Wyoming,
Utah and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to recover the Colorado River
cutthroat trout throughout its historic range. 
In one of the most extensive plans to recover a sensitive aquatic
species, an estimated 1,754 miles of streams and 652 acres of lakes in
the three states will be protected and/or restored to maintain more than
400 populations of the native fish, which has been reduced to less than 1
percent of its former range. 
"This is clearly a piece of pro-active management by the states and the
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to assure the well-being of the Colorado
River cutthroat," said Eddie Kochman, Division aquatic resources manager.

The Colorado River cutthroat is just the latest in a growing list of
sensitive, threatened or endangered aquatic species -- including the
greenback and Rio Grande cutthroat trout, boreal toad, Rio Grande chub
and sucker, Arkansas darter, the Rocky Mountain capshell snail, the
humpback and bonytail chub and Colorado pikeminnow -- the Division is
working to restore. 
"Conservation of native wildlife species is one of the highest priorities
we have," said Tom Nesler, Division native fish species coordinator who
coauthored the agreement. 
Additional Division recovery efforts have been extended toward
eastern-plains aquatic species, as well as sensitive, threatened and
endangered Colorado terrestrial species. 
Like its cousins the Rio Grande and greenback cutthroat trout, Colorado
River cutthroat trout numbers were drastically reduced at the turn of the
century by overfishing, water diversions, pollution from mining and
habitat destruction from overgrazing. As non-natives like rainbow trout
were introduced to make up for the loss of the cutthroat populations,
hybridization with the non-natives began to weaken the species's purity. 
Strategies to restore the Colorado River cutthroat involve removal of
non-native trout from targeted stream reaches and high mountain lakes,
building barriers to prevent recolonization, and monitoring watersheds,
lake and stream habitats and instream flows to detect threats. 
The three-state, 10-year strategy involves restoring degraded ecosystems
by coordinating land-use activities with the needs of the fish, improving
lake and stream habitat and maintaining adequate flows, water levels and
water quality. 
Finding and maintaining wild stocks of genetically pure strains of
Colorado River cutthroats for introduction, reintroduction and transplant
is a key to the recovery effort. Whenever possible, these fish will be
supplied by natural dispersal and transplant from a donor water. 
In Colorado, 30 stream reaches and lakes (27 in the upper Yampa basin,
two in the Dolores basin and one in the Gunnison basin) will be
protected, and 31 (13 in the upper Colorado River, six in the Gunnison,
one in the San Juan River, four in the White River, and seven in the
Yampa River basins) are targeted for restoration. Forty-four waters will
be studied for potential reintroduction sites. 
All identified Colorado River cutthroat habitats (AAA waters) will be
protected from whirling disease by stocking only fish certified
WD-negative by polymerase chain reaction testing, the most sensitive
method available, according to Division policy. 
Kochman said that while the agreement is a big accomplishment,
implementation is going to depend upon the states coming up with the
money. 
"Having the necessary budget will be a priority," he said. 
Yet he reminds people that the price tag to recover the species at this
stage will be significantly less than if the Colorado River cutthroat
declines further and is added to the federal Endangered Species list. 
Some conservation groups have indicated they would file a petition
requesting listing for the species. Making substantial progress toward
recovery might eliminate the need to list the Colorado River cutthroat,
he said. 
Independently, Colorado, Wyoming and Utah have been conducting
conservation actions for the Colorado River cutthroat long before the
development of this tri-state agreement and the possibility of a
petition, according to Nesler. 
"We hope to demonstrate through this formal agreement that a
well-coordinated conservation program will continue, and that the current
status of existing populations of this cutthroat combined with a program
of on-the-ground actions shows that protection through federal listing is
not needed," he said.


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Robert Rice
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