August 26, 2008

Valle Vidal Success Key to Long-Term Trout Plans


By Karl Moffatt

For The New Mexican

The Rio Grande Cutthroat Restoration Project's goal is to reduce threats to the state trout's survival and improve its ability to prosper, says Kirk Patten, state fisheries biologist.

Success of the department's long-range plan would also nullify the need for the trout's protection under the Federal Endangered Species Act. Such protection could result in land-use and sport- fishing restrictions.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this spring filed notice of its intent to pursue listing of the trout on their threatened or endangered species list.

Success of the reintroduction effort in Valle Vidal would go a long way toward addressing some of the agency's concerns for listing the trout, says Patten.

Much of the groundwork for that success has already been done. For example, roads have been closed off and in some cases eliminated because they cause excessive runoff and erosion that fouls waters.

Stream banks have been rebuilt and restored with native vegetation to create a healthier environment for fish to thrive. And non-native fish such as rainbow trout and white suckers have been eliminated to allow the Rio Grande cutthroats a clean start in their restored home waters.

Much of that work has involved volunteer groups such as the Truchas Chapter of Trout Unlimited, New Mexico Trout, the Quivera Coalition and the New Mexico Wildlife Federation.

Meanwhile, high in the mountains above the highway between Penasco and Mora lies a creek teeming with cutthroats just waiting to play their role in the ongoing recovery effort.

Originally published by KARL MOFFATT, FOR THE NM.

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