Effort under way to protect habitat of threatened trout in Nevada
RENO – Two federal land agencies are trying to improve the habitat of the threatened Lahontan cutthroat trout in a remote corner of Northern Nevada.
The Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are joining forces with Newmont Mining Corp. on the project designed to help the large native fish in Summit Lake about 175 miles north of Reno.
BLM spokesman Jamie Thompson said efforts are under way to protect the habitat of Mahogany Creek, the sole spawning ground for the lake’s trout.
In an effort to reduce sedimentation and improve spawning success in the perennial stream, work crews recently restored a washed-out road and installed road drainages.
Next year, plans call for crews to install a culvert at a stream crossing so motorists won’t have to drive through the creek.
“(The project) is aimed at improving water quality in Mahogany Creek during spring runoff and reducing adverse impacts to the (trout) population,” Thompson said.
“This in turn could lead the way toward recovery of the (cutthroats) and its delisting as a federally protected species of trout,” he said.
Lahontan cutthroat trout were once the dominant fish in Nevada. But about a century ago the population began a rapid decline, spurred by dams, pollution, over-fishing and the introduction of nonnative fish.
Native cutthroats vanished from Pyramid Lake in the 1940s, shortly after they vanished from Lake Tahoe, which feeds the Truckee River.
The species was listed as endangered in 1970 and reclassified as threatened five years later.
The cutthroats have been kept alive through federal, state and tribal hatchery programs. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is pursuing long-term projects to re-establish the fish in both the Truckee and Walker River systems.
Improving Mahogany Creek’s habitat is vital because Summit Lake is home to one of the last two naturally reproducing populations of Lahontan cutthroat trout in the world, Thompson said.
“If we ever hope to re-establish the trout, some lake population is essential to that,” he said.
Summit Lake is located on the Summit Lake Paiute Indian Reservation north of the sprawling Black Rock Desert.
The Paiute Tribe supports the project.
Newmont, one of the world’s biggest mining companies, is taking part as a public relations gesture, Thompson said.