Greenback Restoration Projects
For many years, Colorado Trout Unlimited has worked with members of the interagency Greenback Recovery Team to help in efforts at restoring the threatened greenback cutthroat trout. Chapter volunteers have helped with reclaiming waters for greenbacks, installing barriers to prevent non-native fish from invading greenback habitats, re-stocking greenbacks into recovery habitats, conducting volunteer monitoring projects, and assisting with public outreach and education. To help maintain a strong, ongoing volunteer program with greenbacks CTU has established the Greenback Restoration Project as a vehicle for funding continued work with this sensitive species.
The greenback cutthroat trout, once thought extinct, is now found in several locations in Colorado as the result of aggressive recovery efforts by a strong interagency partnership including CTU, the Colorado Division of Wildlife, the US Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the US National Park Service, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service. The species remains listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act. Early efforts for greenback recovery focused on the northern part of Colorado in the South Platte River drainage, especially in and around Rocky Mountain National Park. In recent years, attention and activity has been shifting to the Arkansas River watershed. CTU maintains projects in both of these key areas. Some of the major project areas with which CTU is working include:
- Barrier installation. A number of small, remnant greenback populations have been discovered in the Arkansas River basin but were at risk from invasion by non-native trout from downstream areas. CTU is helping the Colorado Division of Wildlife to install fish barriers that will protect greenback habitats from non-natives on streams including Severy Creek, Graneros Creek, South Prong Hayden Creek, and North Taylor Creek. A fish barrier from South Prong Hayden Creek is pictured at right.
- Habitat improvement. CTU volunteers are working with the US Forest Service and Colorado Division of Wildlife on an exciting project on the flanks of Pikes Peak to help improve habitat for greenbacks in two key streams, Bear Creek and Severy Creek. A network of unofficial social trails is creating sedimentation problems in the stream, and volunteers will join agency staff in rehabilitating those areas to help stop erosion. Because pool habitat is also limited, volunteers will help with placing logs and woody debris within the stream to help in forming pools and providing cover habitat that is important in allowing adult cutthroat trout to persist.
- Volunteer monitoring. CTU volunteers assist fishery biologists with field sampling and data collection to track greenback populations and help identify threats to their continued survival, so that conservation efforts can be adjusted accordingly.
- Outreach and education. Harvest of greenbacks by unwitting anglers (who did not know that the fish were protected, or how to distinguish a greenback from other trout) has been a concern in Rocky Mountain National Park. CTU volunteers are helping through a volunteer patrol at Lily Lake to make contact with anglers, advise them of the greenback recovery program, and assist them with proper catch-and-release technique. CTU has also helped the National Park Service prepare and distribute fish identification cards to help anglers know a greenback from a rainbow or brook trout, so they can be sure to release the natives.