CO: Native trout restoration project near Durango

DURANGO, Colo. – A major initiative by the Colorado Division of
Wildlife to restore the native Colorado River cutthroat trout to
the San Juan mountains will begin this summer in the upper Hermosa
Creek drainage about 35 miles north of Durango.

The three-year project is a cooperative effort of the Division of
Wildlife and the U.S. Forest Service, and part of a larger
multi-state and agency effort to restore Colorado River cutthroat
trout to more of its historic range.

Colorado River cutthroat are native to the Colorado River
Basin.

The project will be explained to the public at an open house from
4-8 p.m., July 13, at the Durango Recreation Center’s Windom
Room.

“Upper Hermosa Creek offers an excellent location for a native
trout recovery project,” said Jim White, aquatic biologist for the
Division in Durango. “The area is a big, complex network of
tributaries and a main stem river with excellent water quality and
trout habitat. The limestone geology is favorable for trout and the
area is easily accessible to field crews and anglers.”

Wildlife biologists identified the Hermosa Creek area as a prime
spot for restoration about 20 years ago. In 1992, a similar project
restored native cutthroats on four miles of the creek’s upper East
Fork.

This summer’s project will begin the process to reclaim about nine
miles of Hermosa Creek at its headwaters. This phase is expected to
take two years to complete, White said. The next phase will connect
the main stem of Upper Hermosa Creek to the East Fork of Hermosa
Creek. All in all, the full project is expected to last three to
five years. When completed, Colorado River cutthroat trout will
inhabit more than 20 miles of the Hermosa Creek drainage

Colorado River cutthroat trout currently occupy only a small
portion of their historic range. Over-harvest, decline in water
quality and the introduction of non-native trout starting in the
1850s nearly wiped out the native fish. Fortunately, Division
biologists found remnant populations in Colorado, established brood
stocks, and the species is now sustained through habitat
protection, hatcheries, and stocking. The goal of the Division’s
native trout program is to create sustainable wild populations of
cutthroat trout to provide for the long-term survival of the
species.

The Colorado River cutthroat trout is listed as a state species of
concern; environmental groups have petitioned for it to be listed
under the federal Endangered Species Act. The Division hopes that
successful restoration programs will eliminate any need to consider
listing the fish.

Eliminating non-native fish from Upper Hermosa Creek is the first
step of the process. The Forest Service constructed a waterfall
barrier on the creek near Hotel Draw last summer that will prevent
non-native fish from swimming upstream into the newly reclaimed
habitat. In early August, water above the barrier will be treated
with Rotenone, a chemical derived from a tropical plant root which
is also commonly used as an organic insecticide for roses.
Rotenone, an EPA-registered pesticide, will kill the existing fish,
mostly brook trout. The chemical is fast-acting, only affects
aquatic species, leaves no residue and degrades quickly. Rotenone
has been used for decades in fisheries management throughout North
America and poses no threat to human health.

Before the treatment, the Division of Wildlife will capture some of
the fish in the creek and move them to spots below the treatment
area.

Because upper Hermosa Creek comprises a complex system, the water
will be treated again in the summer of 2012 to assure that
non-native fish are no longer present. This section of the creek
will be restocked with native cutthroats in late summer 2012.

The project will result in a temporary loss of fishing opportunity.
Plenty of places to fish, however, are available below the barrier
and in other nearby waters.

In the third year of the project, another barrier will be built at
the confluence of Hermosa Creek and East Hermosa Creek to allow for
chemical treatment on the final section. Two years of treatment
also will be required for this reach. Restocking with native trout
is expected to occur there in late summer of 2014.

Another restoration project is planned for the Woods Lake area in
San Miguel County on the north slope of the San Juan mountains this
summer

Both areas will accommodate large numbers of fish. These
“metapopulations” provide defense against disease outbreaks and
other threats, such as wild fires, that can quickly wipe out small
populations.

“While we truly regret the inconvenience to anglers, we want to
remind folks that these measures are necessary to maintain
Colorado’s native trout,” White said. “There are many miles of
streams in this area to fish including the East Fork of Hermosa
Creek and below Hotel Draw. And in a couple of years, people will
be able to fish for native cutthroats in all these creeks.”

For more information, contact White at j.white@state.co.us, or
(970)375-6712.

To learn more about fisheries management in Colorado, see:
http://wildlife.state.co.us/Fishing.

What: Open house to explain Colorado River cutthroat trout
restoration on Hermosa Creek

When: 4-8 p.m., July 13

Where: Durango Recreation Center, Windom Room

Information: Jim White, (970)375-6712; j.white@state.co.us.

For more information about Division of Wildlife go to:
http://wildlife.state.co.us.

 

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