Projects News

CTU 50th Anniversary Film headed to Zimmerman Lake this summer (Behind the Scenes)

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On July 2, 2019 passionate TU volunteer and native trout angler, John Trammell headed up with CTU and Josh Duplechian of Trout Unlimited to participate in filming for CTU’s 50th Anniversary Film featuring the native trout work on Zimmerman Lake. Below is his personal account of the day. Enjoy!

John and his daughter Melissa.

John and his daughter Melissa.

MY LIFE AS A FLY FISHERMAN PART 21: Greenbacks and Zimmerman Lake

by John Trammell

Up front I’ll confess that not much of Part 21 is about fishing, but about what I observed at Zimmerman Lake on July 2 this year. What I saw was a team of government agencies and Trout Unlimited volunteers working scientifically and physically to preserve and propagate our state fish - the greenback cutthroat trout. I could not have been more impressed by the skills and hard work I saw. Really amazing.

Zimmerman lake is 40 miles east of Walden, near the continental divide, at 10,000+ feet elevation. It has a population of a few hundred greenbacks, placed there to become the source of eggs for the purpose of increasing the numbers of our state fish. On the day my daughter Melissa and I were there, the steep trail up to the lake was both rough and muddy, with numerous snowdrifts. (The day before, the workers had shoveled away drifts that were impassable to ATVs.)

The ancestors of the greenbacks in Zimmerman Lake were a small number of fish rescued from their only remaining natural habitat, Bear Creek near Colorado Springs, when the habitat was threatened by a wildfire. Being so few, when they’re artificially spawned it is important to preserve genetic diversity. Observing how that is done was fascinating - not only because of what was done, but how it was done under difficult field conditions.

When we arrived at the work site the fish were already being held in floating mesh pens. Wader-clad workers separated them into categories to be processed on a long table set up amid mud, snow and trippy exposed tree roots. They were given an anesthetic bath to make them more docile and to reduce shock while they were being processed.

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CPW’s project leader Kevin Rogers told me that his agency knows each greenback in the lake individually. Each has a little VIE tag behind its eye that he identifies to a person who then uses a hand-held electronic device to read an internal pittag. Each fish is described verbally (e.g, “ripe female, good condition; immature male”), its pittag recorded, measured, weighed, and photographed beside its PIT number. Then the fish is put into a five-gallon bucket of water, to recover from the anesthetic. This all occurs rapidly as the trout are passed down the table. This information is used to select males and females to have their eggs and milt combined. Records of the combinations are kept with the intent to achieve maximum genetic diversity.

After the anesthetic has worn off and the greenbacks are trying to swim out of the buckets, they are returned to the lake. Forest Ranger Chris Carrell hustled those 40-pound buckets down to the lake all afternoon, quickly returning the empties back to the table for more greenbacks. After a while, realizing the physical toll it was taking on him, Melissa helped. Although she wasn’t there as a representative of her agency, the National Park Service, she also helped with the work at the table. Being somewhat enfeebled by the trip up to the lake, I just sat, and observed.

Fertilized eggs are treated with an iodine solution, and taken to CPW’s Mt. Shavano hatchery to be hatched and reared for stocking into suitable waters. In addition to the objective of saving them from extinction, the aim is to have a sustainable population of greenbacks for Coloradoans to enjoy.

I’ve long been a fan of native cutthroat trout, so I’m grateful to the State of Colorado for going to the expense and trouble to save the greenbacks. And I’m grateful to the agency people and TU volunteers who do the work.

“I know I volunteer because I love trout, trout habitat, and trout fishing. Of those three, I think it’s the habitat I love best, and not just because without it we can’t have the other two. It’s because I just love it, everything about it. I get a thrill every time I approach a trout stream.”
— John Trammell

Rare cutthroat trout in Abrams Creek will see improved stream habitat

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Trout Unlimited, Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the Buckhorn Valley Metropolitan District No. 1 (District) completed their ambitious restoration project on Abrams Creek to preserve a rare population of cutthroat trout threatened in part by reduced flows during irrigation season.

Among other benefits, increased flows are expected to:

  • Increase physical/wetted habitat and riparian cover along approximately 3.5 miles of stream.

  • Improve in-stream habitat connectivity and quality, allowing trout to more easily move to the best habitat and holding areas.

  • Enhance sediment transport, which helps keep river cobble and spawning habitat clean and healthy.

  • Increase aquatic insect productivity, improving cutthroat food resources.

  • Create deeper pools for trout refuge.

  • Maintain cooler water temperatures in lower Abrams.

Moreover, a permanent fish screen will be installed at the point of diversion on Abrams Creek that will help protect the trout population by reducing losses due to entrainment in the ditch.

For more than a century, however, Abrams Creek has been dewatered by irrigation diversions that drastically reduce its flows in late summer and fall. The trout have been hanging on, but they’re seriously pressured. Colorado Parks and Wildlife has called this population the “highest priority” for cutthroat conservation efforts in Western Colorado. In 2016, Trout Unlimited’s Mely Whiting helped negotiate a deal with the local irrigation company, Buckhorn Valley Metro District, which agreed to pipe their irrigation ditch and thereby reduce leakage by 40 percent, with the water savings going back into the creek to keep the fish healthy.



Rare Hayden Cutthroats have a new home!

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Editor’s Note:

Rick Helmick, Director on the Collegiate Peaks TU Chapter Board, brings us a story about 4,500 rare Cutthroat offspring being released into their new home, Cottonwood Creek, after their original home was destroyed by the Hayden Pass wildfire, which burned more than 16,000 acres in the Sangre de Cristo Range three summers ago.  July 1, 2019 the offspring were released into the wild by officials of Colorado Parks and Wildlife accompanied by 40 staff and volunteers from the U.S. Forest Service and Trout Unlimited.

Rare Hayden Cutthroats have a new home!

by Rick Helmick, Director on the Collegiate Peaks TU Chapter Board

It was a dark, ominous, and rainy day ahead of the forty of us, and two mules, as we gathered at the base of the Sangre de Cristo’s, west of Westcliffe, at the Venable Trailhead. All we had to do was carry the offspring of the 158 rare Cutthroats, saved out of Hayden Creek, right in the middle of that 2016 Wildfire that eventually burned 17,000 acres, and destroyed the Cutts that lived there.

When USFS Fisheries Biologist Janelle Valladares called for CPC-TU’s help, we put out the word and had incredible response from volunteers - even as far away as Missouri, and a member from the Southern Colorado Greenbacks Chapter in Pueblo, CO.

What an incredible experience. We are forever grateful for having this experience, Thank you!
— Amber, Volunteer from Missouri
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It was a hard and long trip up this mountain, which did everything but snow on us July 1st (although it did sleet), as the volunteers carried 20 pound bags of 70-80 fingerlings each, and the heavy lifting done by mules carrying panniers all the way to the top. 4,500 of these rare Cutthroats only found in Hayden Creek, now have a new home in Cottonwood Creek!

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It was a huge, and combined effort, of CPW, USFS, TU, Trails for All, and some great public volunteers! CPW plans on several more stockings of additional Hayden Creek Cutthroats, in various other high mountain streams. Thanks to the Collegiate Peaks Chapter for responding to CPW’s call for assistance! We all sincerely hope for the survival of these genetically rare Cutthroat, in their new home.

In the News

https://theknow.denverpost.com/2019/07/08/cutthroat-fingerlings-hayden-pass-wildfire-cottonwood-creek/218721/

https://www.thedenverchannel.com/news/local-news/four-legged-workers-help-colorado-parks-and-wildlife-restore-rare-trout-to-hayden-creek

https://gazette.com/news/rare-indigenous-trout-species-reintroduced-to-colorado/article_84bb75fc-a1c5-11e9-96fc-ab1a52c749a0.html

http://www.cpr.org/2017/07/20/spared-the-wrath-of-wildfire-colorados-hayden-creek-trout-are-on-the-comeback/

From CTU: Thank you Rick for the great recap of the day - what an amazing project!

Over 300 trout released in this year's Trout in the Classroom Release!

Trout in the Classroom (TIC) is a conservation-oriented, environmental education program for elementary, middle and high school students. Throughout the school year students raise their trout from egg to fry, monitor tank water quality, engage in stream habitat study, learn to appreciate water resources, grow to understand ecosystems and begin to foster a conservation ethic. At the end of each school year, TIC classrooms release their trout into a state approved stream.

In the state of Colorado, there are 12 schools that take part in this program with a total of 17 tanks. Each program is led by educators dedicated to growing the next generation of environmental stewards.

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On May 28th, Vanessa Grenader, a 5th grade teacher from Blackhawk, brought her students to Mayhem Gulch to release their 170 pet rainbow trout. Vanessa was accompanied by volunteers from the West Denver Chapter who talked with the students about water quality. Read more here.

On May 24th, Mike Sanchez’s high school class was joined by Bianca McGrath-Martinez of Colorado Trout Unlimited and Emma Brown of the Greenbacks for a release field trip at the Carson Nature Center in Littleton. The students were able to stock the South Platte with their trout, explore native plant species, and go on a nature walk.

On May 23rd, Todd Johnson set out on his first release field trip accompanied by the Denver Trout Unlimited chapter. Todd’s 3rd graders were able to release 60 trout — most of which have names.

Native Trout Need Your Help

Young Greenback Cutthroat Native Trout.  Photo by: Neal Bullock/2018

Young Greenback Cutthroat Native Trout.

Photo by: Neal Bullock/2018

After an epic snow year, Spring has finally settled in Colorado - which means great fishing and that Greenback recovery projects are just around the corner!

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The Greenback Cutthroat Trout, once declared extinct, is making a comeback in Colorado – thanks in large part to agency partners and the hundreds of volunteers that have helped spawn, stock, and restore habitat over the past few years.  2019 is poised to be the biggest year yet for Greenback recovery projects and we need your help!  Follow the linked opportunities below to see how you can make a difference for this threatened species and be a part of this historic recovery effort!

Colorado TU works closely with our agency partners to support recovery projects with funding and volunteers.  Your help with spawning, stocking, habitat restoration, and citizen science goes a long way.

Thank you for helping to recover this critical trout species and we look forward to seeing you out there!

VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITIES

Click any opportunity below to learn more and sign up.

A Good Year for Trout at the Capitol

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Legislative Recap

By Jen Boulton, CTU Legislative Liaison

The 2019 session was one of the most intense in recent years. There was some Washington DC level obstruction on numerous bills; which led to some very long days, and even longer nights. After the dust settled, however, the conservation community achieved some remarkable successes.

One of the highest priorities for CTU was HB1113 to revamp some of the hard rock mining laws in the state. Most notably, the bill prohibited reliance on perpetual water treatment for newly permitted mines. Under the previously existing law, companies could apply for permits knowing that perpetual mine drainage pollution would result from their activities. In fact, the policy of the State of Colorado hasn’t allowed the practice for several years; but with passage of HB1113, the practice is prohibited by law so our streams and rivers are less reliant on the policies of a single department. HB1113 also prohibited the use of “self-bonding” for recovery on mining sites. Self bonding allowed companies to claim that a healthy corporate balance sheet negated the need to post bonds in order to ensure sufficient resources for reclamation. Lastly, the bill gave specific authority to State regulators to require bonds to protect water quality, rather than solely for surface reclamation. Put together, these provisions will help ensure that future mining operations are required to operate responsibly and in a manner that adequately restores the environments where mining takes place.

Another key measure was passage of the oil and gas regulation bill. One of the biggest obstacles to updating regulations on the oil and gas industry to protect streams and rivers has been the statutory provision that the agency responsible for regulation has also been required to foster development of oil and gas resources. That dual mission has led to significant difficulties in protecting water quality, as well as public health and safety. There has been a tremendous amount of misinformation circulated about this bill. It was absolutely not a resurrection of the 2018 ballot measure on setbacks – a measure that Colorado TU did not support. In fact, the word setback wasn’t even in the bill.

The bill actually addressed two major issues, and several smaller issues to streamline the process and improve transparency. First it removed the requirement that the State foster development. Instead, it made the regulatory agency responsible solely for regulating the industry. Second, the bill gave increased authority to local governments to regulate the siting of facilities in accordance with their land use policy. This provision was one of the most contentious. Industry claimed that the resulting patchwork of regulations would make development prohibitively expensive. Ironically, the bill merely put the oil and gas industry on the same footing with all other commercial and residential development, which was already subject to regulation and permitting by each local jurisdiction in the State.

On a more disappointing note, we were unable to pass HB1218, a bill that would have expanded the existing program allowing temporary leasing of water for protection of instream flows. The bill expanded the existing program from allowing temporary leases three years in a single ten year period; to allowing up to five years of leasing in ten, with renewal for up to two additional ten year terms. This program has already been used to help keep more water in drought-stricken streams, including three times (through 2018) on the Yampa River where leasing partnerships with the local water conservancy district have been essential in maintaining the fishery through drought years.  Unfortunately, the opposition was strong enough to derail the bill, and force it into a discussion during the Summer at the water resources and review committee.

Stay tuned: this fight will be back next year.

March Newsletter is out! Check out the latest Currents.

This month’s issue features a story about the history of a Colorado town that decided it needed to give itself a new identity. The newsletter also includes a new Behind the Fin feature, our 50th Anniversary Art Poster Contest Winner, the new High Country Angler Spring e-magazine, Fork Not Taken Recap, Clean Water Action alert and some upcoming events around the state.

New! Spring 2019 High Country Angler is out!

NEW! High Country Angler Spring 2019

The new spring issue of High Country Angler is now live and you can view it online or download the entire issue for free! This time around you can look forward these stories:

  • A Q& A with Landon Mayer by Frank Martin

  • Still Water Sure Thing: Yellowstone Lake by Brian La Rue

  • Paint By Number Fly Fishing by Peter Stitcher 

  • Your Guide to RMNP by Annie Smith

  • Dry Flies in February by Hayden Mellsop

  • Minturn Anglers by Mark Shulman

  • 50 Years Protecting Rivers by Mike Ledger

  • Corps, EPA Propose Clean Water Act Rollback By David Nickum

  • Public Lands: Best. Idea. Ever by CTU Staff

  • Behind the Fin with Dave Taylor by CTU Staff

  • TU and the Birth of Colorado Instream Flows by CTU Staff

  • Angler's All by CTU Staff

  • Fit to be Tied by Joel Evans

Fishing for Fahrenheit

Guy Turenne and Phil Wright trekking through deep snow to find a buried stream temperature probe on Fall Creek. Photo Credit: Phil Wright, 2019.

Guy Turenne and Phil Wright trekking through deep snow to find a buried stream temperature probe on Fall Creek. Photo Credit: Phil Wright, 2019.

It was a beautiful November day in the high country, as Guy Turenne and Phil Wright climbed their way over drifts of fresh snow along Fall Creek – a tiny tributary in the heart of Colorado’s northern mountains. 

This time, it was not fish that they were after, but a small temperature probe the size of a silver dollar, lying in wait at the bottom of the stream channel.  Months earlier, Guy and Phil, along with dozens of other TU volunteers, worked with the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) to place these loggers in different stream locations throughout the eastern half of the state.

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Fish are heavily affected by temperature – especially trout.  Changes in thermal regimes over the course of a few hours to a few months can trigger fish to spawn, eat, grow, and even breathe.  We all saw stories in the hot, dry summer months of 2018, when low flows and extreme ambient air temperatures brought some rivers to over 79°F.  At that point, dissolved oxygen becomes increasingly scarce and fish can die. 

Stream temperatures also impact the normal day-to-day and cyclic activities of our trout.  For example, Rainbow trout will spawn in the spring when water temperature begins to rise and reaches 45-56 degrees F (52°F is ideal).  Conversely, Brown trout will spawn in the fall as water temperatures drop within 44-48°F.  Each species of trout thrives at different conditions.

So, what does any of this have to do with two TU volunteers hiking through two feet of snow in the middle of Winter?

As it turns out – a lot!  Just as water temperature affects the spawning cycle of Rainbows and Browns, thermal regimes play an important role in the development of Cutthroat trout – in this case, Greenbacks and Rio Grandes.  These fish have evolved over thousands of years to eat, grow, and reproduce at specific thermal conditions in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains.  As Trout Unlimited and native trout recovery partners continue to engage in projects that reclaim habitat and stock native fingerlings, we must ensure that the temperature regimes will support those fish long term.

But collecting that level of data across thousands of miles of small tributaries and remote drainages can pose a challenge to recovery partners.  Fortunately, TU volunteers came to the rescue.

Chris Carroll, aquatic biologist with the U.S. Forest Service teaches TU volunteers how to attach stream temperature probes during April 2018 training.

Chris Carroll, aquatic biologist with the U.S. Forest Service teaches TU volunteers how to attach stream temperature probes during April 2018 training.

With critical funding supplied by the Western Native Trout Initiative (WNTI) and the U.S. Forest Service, volunteers from several chapters helped to identify future habitat for the returning Greenback and Rio Grande Cutthroat.  In the Spring of 2018, the project kicked off with a USFS-led volunteer training during the annual CTU Rendezvous in Keystone.  From that point, chapter representatives recruited and trained their own local group of temperature probe deployment experts. Over the course of the summer, TU volunteers exceeded the original 30-site goal by setting and maintaining over 40 HOBO stream temperature loggers in several key drainages that have potential for recovery sites.

Evergreen TU volunteer, Mike Goldblatt, points to a recently-installed stream temperature probe in the Bear Creek drainage.

“We observed that the RMF membership and other members of the community seem to value stream monitoring efforts in general, are strongly supportive of such efforts, and are willing to volunteer,” explained Phil Wright, project coordinator for the Rocky Mountain Flycasters Chapter. 

As the leaves changed and fell from the trees, TU volunteers went back into the field to collect the data – which was then transferred to biologists at USFS and CPW.  From there, recovery partners will be able to show a better picture of which watersheds will make good candidates for future reintroduction. 

Trout Unlimited volunteers continue to help advance native trout recovery throughout Colorado each year – even winning a regional volunteer service award from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2018.  Whether its notching beaver dams, backpacking in fingerlings, or tramping through two feet of powder, TU volunteers are committed and engaged in the recovery of our native trout.  The stream temperature study is another chapter of this important saga – and one that will undoubtedly be the preface for the next wave of native cutthroat recovery sites.  Who knows… maybe one of those streams will be in your backyard!

Colorado Trout Unlimited would like to recognize our valuable partners and chapters who have made this project possible:

Western Native Trout Initiative, the U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, and Evergreen TU, West Denver TU, Rocky Mountain Flycasters TU, Alpine Anglers TU, Cutthroat Chapter TU, Pikes Peak TU, San Luis Valley TU, and Boulder Flycasters TU.

If you are interested to learn more about this project or volunteer, please visit Colorado TU’s Native Trout Page.

Request for Proposals: Fish Passage and Ditch Diversion Improvement

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Trout Unlimited (TU), in coordination with the Town of Granby (Town), Grand County, Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW), and US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is soliciting Proposals for Design Services for a diversion structure on the Fraser River in Granby, Colorado.  Proposals shall be received by TU via U.S. Mail and email by no later than January 4, 2019 at 5:00 pm at the following address:

Mely Whiting

P.O. Box 1544

Pagosa Springs, CO 81147

mwhiting@tu.org

Intent to submit a proposal shall be submitted via email to Mely Whiting at mwhiting@tu.org by December 21, 2018.  Only those contractors that submit an “intent to submit proposals” will be considered for a final proposal. The intent to submit proposal should list the primary contact and their contact information.

Consulting services shall be led by a primary Contractor, whose team should include appropriate fish passage engineers/scientists, river modeling and scour analysis experts, ditch diversion designers, and experience in water rights related to ditch diversions in Colorado. Contractor selection will be made through a combination of Qualifications Based Selection (QBS) and Cost Based Processes as described in this Request for Proposals (RFP). Please refer to the following sections for details on the project, conditions, schedule, proposal requirements, and selection process.

QUESTIONS and ONSITE FIELD VISIT

An onsite, field visit will occur on November 28, 2018 to answer questions about the project aspects.  Interested contractors are highly encouraged to attend.  Please meet at the Town of Granby Town Hall, Zero Jasper Avenue, Granby, Colorado at 2:00 pm on November 28, 2018. All questions relating to this RFP should be addressed to Mely Whiting by email, at mwhiting@tu.org.  Questions are due in writing by no later than 5:00 p.m. on December 5, 2018.  All questions will be addressed in one batch with answers sent out to all recipients by December 14, 2018.

IMPORTANT DATES:

  • November 14, 2018 Request For Proposals Announced

  • November 28, 2018 2:00pm Onsite Field Visit and Answer Questions at the Town of Grandby Town Hall

  • December 5, 2018 5:00pm All Questions due in writing by December to Mely Whiting by email, at mwhiting@tu.org

  • December 21, 2018 Intent to submit a proposal shall be submitted via email to Mely Whiting at mwhiting@tu.org

  • January 4, 2018 at 5:00pm Proposals shall be receivd by TU via U.S. Mail and email by no later than at the following address:

    Mely Whiting

    P.O. Box 1544

    Pagosa Springs, CO 81147

    mwhiting@tu.org

    Please download the full proposal details and requirements by clicking the button below: