This has been a remarkably devastating year for Oregon’s native desert trout . . .
While the “powers that be” exercised wisdom – by closing the roads leading into an area where a remnant of phenotypical Alvord cutthroat trout remain; the surrounding areas of SE Oregon were not so lucky – and the hot, dry oxygen depletion spoken of in late summer has taken a catastrophic toll on remaining native strains of Humboldt cutthroat trout.
The Willow Creek and Whitehorse Creek Systems of SE Oregon were devastated by fire this summer. ODFW has reported on this tragedy, and has closed the systems to fishing:
|Southeast Oregon Lahontan cutthroat trout streams closed to fishing due to fire damage August 31, 2012 (ODFW)
HINES, Ore. – The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife announced today it will suspend fishing in several Lahontan cutthroat trout streams in southeast Oregon due to severe habitat damage from the recent Holloway fire.
The following streams will be closed to all fishing beginning Sept. 1 until further notice:
The Holloway fire burned 245,505 acres in Oregon in the far southeastern corner of the state near the Nevada border.
According to Shannon Hurn, ODFW fish biologist in Hines, the fire totally destroyed the riparian vegetation on some stream sections and fire fighters observed fish dying from asphyxiation during the fire. Long-term impacts could include higher water temperatures in summer, lower water temperatures in winter and increased sediment from eroding soils, she said.
The loss is particularly notable because the burned area includes Oregon’s only pure native Lahontan cutthroat trout populations.
“While it’s too soon to know the full impact of the fire on the trout population, we believe it will be profound,” she said. “However, we’re hopeful that enough fish and riparian habitat survived the fire to rebuild the population.”
Lahontan cutthroat trout can grow to be the largest of all cutthroat trout and were once found throughout desert basins in parts of California, Nevada and southeast Oregon. In recent decades, many populations have disappeared due to dam construction, habitat loss and the introduction of non-native brown, brook and rainbow trout.
The species has been protected since 1973 and is currently listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act. In 2006, it was identified in the Oregon Conservation Strategy as a species in need of conservation.
In 1989 biologists counted only 8,000 Lahontan trout in the Whitehorse basin. During the most recent population survey in 2011, the population was estimated at 23,800. Several streams were opened to catch-and-release fishing in 2001 due to growing or stable populations.
Hurn credits the population rebound in the 1990s to the efforts of the Trout Creek Mountain Working Group, a coalition of ranchers, government agencies, and environmental advocacy groups that have been working on Lahontan cutthroat trout recovery since the late 1980s.
Much of the riparian habitat restored by the Working Group was destroyed in the fire.
|Contact:||Shannon Hurn (541) 573-6582
Jessica Sall (503) 947-6023; cell (503) 931-6858
Perhaps – perhaps – there is something to be thankful for in the fact that the ***** Creek system was not so adversely affected by fire . . . Yet it is evident that the summer of 2012 has taken a toll, even where the fires did not rage —
Perhaps we should all take stock of how fragile these rare and virtually extinct populations of desert trout truly are . . .
before it becomes too late to provide protection and the vital support that these trout need.
© KOD December 2012