Fish barriers to be built on 5 streams on the East Fork Sevier River

Bonneville cutthroat trout. Undated | Image by mypubliclands, photo in public domain, St. George News

CEDAR CITY — The Dixie National Forest is proposing to build six permanent and three temporary fish barriers on five streams in the East Fork Sevier River drainage to facilitate future Bonneville cutthroat trout restoration work by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.

Working with UDWR to expand and conserve the species helps the Forest Service fulfill the obligations it is committed to as a signatory agency to the Range-wide Conservation Agreement and Strategy for Bonneville Cutthroat Trout. According to Mike Golden, fish biologist for the Dixie National Forest, the Conservation Agreement and Strategy is an interagency effort designed to alleviate factors that would warrant listing the trout under the Endangered Species Act.

“We are trying to keep the species off the Endangered Species list, as well as restore native species back to their historic habitat,” Golden said.

The fish barriers are the first step in removing nonnative trout from Horse Creek, Birch Creek, West Fork Hunt Creek, as well as the East Fork Sevier River and its tributaries upstream from Tropic Reservoir. Richard Hepworth, aquatics program manager with UDWR, said that Bonneville cutthroat trout is a fish native to Utah that has declined from many reasons including past introductions of nonnative trout.

“Brook trout, brown trout and rainbow trout were stocked as sport fish in the past but are not native to the area,” Hepworth said. “Brook and brown trout spawn in the fall giving their young a competitive advantage over spring spawning BCT and rainbow trout hybridize with BCT. These factors have resulted in those trout species overtaking the BCT throughout most of the Bonneville Basin.”

The Ranch Creek and Deep Creek tributaries to the East Fork Sevier River both have remnant populations (meaning they have persisted since the time of settlement)  of the trout that will be used to repopulate the target streams once nonnative trout have been removed. The piscicide rotenone will be used to remove nonnative trout. During chemical application, rotenone will be deactivated at the lower ends of target areas to avoid killing fish downstream.

While nonnative trout will be removed during the treatments, Hepworth said that project implementation will be timed and completed in ways which attempt to “minimize impacts to fishing opportunity.”

The project will restore over 50 miles of stream for Bonneville cutthroat trout and other native fish, including 36 miles of interconnected streams upstream from Tropic Reservoir.

“One of the challenges to restoring native trout is finding areas where fish will be able to persist following disturbance without additional management from us because it requires that species to occupy long distances of interconnected stream, “ Golden said. “This project provides us with that opportunity.”

Hepworth confirmed that this project along with an ongoing restoration project on Mammoth Creek should be a big step toward securing the future of Bonneville cutthroat trout in Utah’s Southern Region.

For more information the statement for the fish barrier construction is available online.

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