CEDAR CITY, Utah - Bonneville Cutthroat Trout have been close to extinction several times over the past few decades, but a new conservation project by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources aims to gives populations a boost.
The project would build fish barriers and use chemical treatments to remove non-native fish from the Mammoth Creek drainage area. DWR Southern Region aquatics manager Richard Hepworth said that is one of the areas that contains a fairly strong population of Bonneville Cutthroat.
“They’ve kind of been, not quite eliminated, but pushed back into very isolated little pockets of head water streams around the state,” Hepworth said.
The state fish is known as one of the earliest native species to inhabit Utah waters. Hepworth said over the past 100 years, the Bonneville Cutthroat has become threatened several times--due mostly to invasive species, cross breeding, and water populations.
DWR has done other, similar measures throughout the state to try and restore the Bonneville Cutthroat populations.
Mammoth Creek is a popular fishing destination, not only for the cutthroat, but also for the non-native brook trout. Hepworth said the removal of that species, and the treatments they’ve planned, shouldn’t interfere with recreation.
“If we go up there and remove those brook trout, get rid of those and go back with the cutthroat, we’ll probably end up with a more desirable stream for fishing and it helps meet some of our conservation needs,” Hepworth said.
The project comes at a time when conservation groups like Trout Unlimited are urging for more conservation. Trout Unlimited released their first ever “State of the Trout" report earlier this week, saying already three of the 23 native species of trout in the U.S. are extinct.
“The fact is we know what we need to do to recover native trout, but we’re running out of time,” said Trout Unlimited president Chris Wood in a news conference on Tuesday. “We need more partnerships, across broader landscapes, to help protect and restore native trout.”
The proposed restoration project is currently out for public input. Hepworth says work could start later this summer.