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Protection

Bear Creek Sediment load 300

“The biggest threat to the greenbacks in Bear Creek is sediment runoff into the creek” Allyn Kratz CMCTU

There is currently one self sustaining population of greenbacks in Colorado. The 750 fish in Bear Creek are the remaining genetic link to the true greenback. The creek is plagued with sediment over load, cold water, low flows, decomposed Granite and many other issues that make it a challenging home for the greenbacks. Even though Bear Creek is not in the greenbacks native range the fish there will continue to be protected. Under The National Environmental Protection Act a team of researchers from the USFS  recently published a document outlining what is to be done with Bear Creek. Improvements to the river bed and surrounding wilderness include, improve spawning and over wintering pools, improve water quality (sedimentation and water temperature), reduce hill and gully sedimentation, collect and utilize native seeds for replanting of surrounding habitat. Fishing will continue to be prohibited and High Drive road will be closed to motor vehicles. All of these improvements are much need but there is no timeline or proposed cost for repairs. The Cheyenne Mountain Chapter of Colorado Trout Unlimited (CMCTU) is currently working  protect the fish in Bear Creek through grant work and volunteerism. They have received grant money through the Western Native Trout Initiative that will provide funding for watershed restoration projects In Bear Creek. For more information about CMCTU their efforts to protect Bear Creek and the Greenbacks visit their website HERE or at http://www.cmctu.org.

Greenback_Closed_to_fishing_sign_300

“Just as an original Van Gogh has greater worth than any reproduction, the greenback is more valuable because of its uniqueness than browns or rainbows” Kelly Bastone, 5280 Magazine From: http://www.5280.com/environment/magazine/2014/04/one-almost-got-away

Working alongside CMCTU is the Bear Creek Round Table, a group of hikers, mountain bikers, The US Forest Service, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, city and county officials and others who have a vested interested in Bear Creek and its trail system. The group has worked to maintain trails sustainably while reducing sediment run off into the stream. Recently Jones Park was given to El Paso County by Colorado Springs, the deal was struck under the agreement that the park would continue to be open to the public and  initial funds for the improvements outlined in the NEPA process would be allocated. To ensure the completion of the restoration, monitoring of the basin through on sight cameras, visual inspection and water gauges will be done by the Forest Service periodically and after major incidents (flooding, fire, etc.…).  You can find the entire Forest Service document here or at http://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprd3846428.pdf.

Greenback At Zimmerman

“Fishing for brown trout, fishing for rainbow trout is a lot of fun, but it’s kind of like your family trip to the amusement park, going to Busch Gardens or Six Flags. You can go and have a great time, but it’s fairly similar. Catching a native fish is more like going on a trip to a national park, where you’re seeing what’s unique to that setting.” David Nickum, Colorado Trout Unlimited From: http://www.westword.com/news/colorado-protected-the-wrong-trout-for-years-can-we-save-the-greenback-cutthroat-now-5850288

The genetic fortitude of our beloved greenbacks is in question. Greenbacks are currently being bread at the Leadville National Fish Hatchery and the Mt. Shavano Hatchery in an attempt to deepen the gene pool of the 750 Bear Creek fish. Work at the hatcheries resulted in the stocking of Zimmerman Lake in 2014. The fish in Zimmerman have grown three inches in the past nine months, a considerable improvement to the growth seen in the Leadville hatchery and a good sign that hatchery fish can thrive in the wild. The Zimmerman fish have little habitat for reproduction so they will be retaken for brood stock at the hatchery. The fish selected for brood stock will strengthen the gene pool of the Greenbacks, they will have reached maturity in the wild proving their resistance to natural dangers. Selective breeding like this has never been seen before in trout research. Ed Stege, head biologist at the Leadville National Fish Hatchery, is attempting to scientifically steer a population away from a genetic bottleneck by cross referencing the genomes of captive and wild fish to ensure when eggs and milt meet the resulting offspring are as genetically distinct as possible.  Although it is tough to say how well these fish will reproduce in the wild, the hatch rate of hatchery eggs and hatchery milt is twenty to thirty percent while the hatch rate of wild eggs fertilized by wild milt is ninety-nine percent. If all goes to plan the fish taken from Zimmerman will yield a higher hatch rate than hatchery fish. Hatcheries are a splint on the road to a sustainable greenback population, they offer a controlled environment to study the fish but are in no way a final solution to the genetics in question. For more info on the Leadville and Shavano hatcheries follow the links here http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/fisheries/leadville.php http://cpw.state.co.us/learn/Pages/Hatcheries.aspx

Leadvillehatch

“What would the world lose if you weren’t here? You have no idea down the road what each unique species may contribute.” Ed Stege, USFWS From: http://www.5280.com/environment/magazine/2014/04/one-almost-got-away

To learn more about Bear Creek and its greenbacks from the Cheyenne Mountain Chapter of TU in Colorado Springs click on the photo below.

Greenback at home in bear Creek

Greenback at home in bear Creek