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Government ramrods cutthroat trout project

by Mike Coleman

Some years ago, Congress passed the Threatened and Endangered Species Act. Included in the act, as one of the many threatened and endangered species, was the Lahontan Cutthroat Trout.

As a result of this action by congress, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been mandated to institute a series of LCT reintroduction programs in the waters where the ancient fish were native. These waters include, among others, the Truckee, Walker and Carson rivers and their various tributaries.

On Monday, March 13, representatives of the USF&WS, headed by Bob Williams, a local area manager, held an LCT meeting at the U.S. Department of Interior building in Reno. Invitees from this area included members of the public, anglers, commercial fishing guides and other “stakeholders.” All attendees were asked to identify themselves and told that after the scheduled talk and informational LCT reintroduction slide presentation, they would be given the opportunity to express their views, concerns and have their questions answered.

The slide presentation was a “slick” overview of the various layers of bureaucracy which have been or will be created to accomplish the LCT reintroduction program.

It became abundantly clear during the question and answer portion of the meeting that the USF&WS intends to ramrod these LCT reintroduction projects on the Truckee, Walker (and later the Carson) rivers no matter what the affect on the existing populations of rainbow, brown and brook trout, including total devastation of those species.

We were told that there is much research and science yet to be done before actual fish replanting will happen. This includes habitat studies in the various streams previously mentioned, as well as the selection of a “suitable” strain of LCT (the ancient strain which inhabited the identified “reintroduction” waters is extinct).

While most of the attendees would like to see a healthy population of LCT in our local waters, my concerns and those expressed by most of the attendees were:

n Since the ancient strain of LCT is extinct, serious doubt exists that a “suitable” strain of LCT for the reintroduction can be replicated. Strains being considered include the “Pilot Peak Creek” strain from Utah and the strain currently found in Pyramid Lake.

I wonder, in view of the recent loss of over 500,000 cutthroat trout to disease at our local federal hatchery, if these fish can sustain themselves in the wild when they cannot even survive in the hatchery.

n The expressed intention by the USF&WS, to rid our local streams of “alien” species (read that as rainbow, brown and brook trout) if they have an adverse impact on the LCT reintroduction programs.

n Should these reintroductions occur, as intended by the USF&WS and be unsuccessful after having destroyed the rainbow, brown and brook trout, we could be left with no fisheries at all!

n Another issue is the one of “state’s rights.” The reintroduction of LCT, spearheaded by the USF&WS, could well be the first step on the part of the federal government to wrest control of local waters from the Nevada Division of Wildlife and the California Division of Fisheries.

Of the 80-plus attendees at the meeting, the only unqualified support of the program that I noted was from representatives of the USF&WS and the Sierra Club.

It appears that the LCT reintroduction program is another effort on the part of a federal agency to force upon the states something they do not want or need.

Many years of diligent efforts and hard work on the part of the Nevada Division of Wildlife and numerous local individuals and organizations such as the High Sierra Fly Casters have resulted in excellent local rainbow and brown trout fisheries, such as the East Walker River. To totally destroy these in an attempt to reintroduce a questionable strain of Lahontan cutthroat trout to be “selected” from various strains, none of which have all the attributes of the extinct strain, is in my opinion bordering on recklessness.

The USF&WS should be reminded of the recent public outcry against the U.S. Forest Service in Elko County (Jarbidge road controversy relating to the “threatened” bull trout).

It could happen to the USF&WS here.

n Mike Coleman is a Gardnerville resident and describes himself as a “concerned angler.”