Volunteers make way for Greenback trout recovery efforts along Rock Creek

Volunteers working to dislodge a disruptive beaver dam along Rock Creek drainage in Colorado. Image courtesy of:  Basin+Bend . 

Volunteers working to dislodge a disruptive beaver dam along Rock Creek drainage in Colorado. Image courtesy of: Basin+Bend

On June 21, 2018, volunteers and Colorado Parks and Wildlife staff met between Fairplay and Grant, CO to work on helping take down beaver dams along the Rock Creek drainage. The Rock Creek drainage is a critical piece of the Greenback recovery puzzle and will provide nearly eight miles of connected stream habitat once the project is completed.  With the help of Trout Unlimited volunteers and chapters, agency partners, and private landowners, there are 4.5 miles of stream that are currently being prepared for greenback reintroduction in the next 2-3 years.  The project below will help make progress on the remaining 3.4 miles of critical habitat.

Last Thursday, volunteers focused on removing beaver dams from sections of the Rock Creek drainage in order to help CPW treat the area for Whirling Disease and non-native brook trout. Volunteers hiked up about a mile and used various tools to help dislodge the dams that were blocking creek flows. A huge thank you to all the volunteers for all their hard work, which resulted in the second scheduled day of work not being needed! Nice job, everyone! If you are interested in future projects, we have upcoming ones listed here

To learn more about Native trout and restoration projects across Colorado check out our page here. Check out the great pictures taken by Erik Myhre of Basin+Bend in Evergreen, CO. 

Pictures courtesy of Basin+Bend

The Rivers Need People Like You!

by Randy Scholfield With grim news of changing climate—scientists say the impacts are visible everywhere now—and an administration with its head resolutely in the sand, things can look pretty discouraging for people who care about rivers.

It’s easy to get discouraged and wonder, What can one person do? As it turns out, one committed person—and especially one person working with other committed people—can do a whole lot.

That’s the strength of Trout Unlimited.

Rick Matsumoto

Former Colorado Trout Unlimited President Rick Matsumoto told a story at this year’s Colorado TU Rendezvous that is hopeful and bears repeating. He had just received the Silver Trout Award, given each year to an individual whose conservation work for Colorado Rivers has made a significant and lasting impact.

Instead of focusing on his long record of achievements, Rick told this story about his first day volunteering with Trout Unlimited:

“That volunteer day, at Buffalo Peaks Ranch in 2008, was my very first volunteer experience with Colorado TU. Sinjin Eberle had enlisted my help to cook lunch. Honestly, I wasn’t a TU member or even a river conservationist at the time. I was simply helping a friend out.

“The last person I flipped a burger for happened to be the late Charlie Meyers, legendary outdoors columnist of the Denver Post. I shut down the grill and joined him for lunch. I tried to thank him for the media coverage of the event, but he cut me off and thanked me for helping to restore the river.

“We talked about a lot of things and I don’t recall the details anymore, but I do remember how it ended. He grabbed my arm to make sure he had my attention, looked me in the eye and said, ‘You know, the rivers need people like you.’

“He didn’t sound like Morgan Freeman, but I felt like Morgan Freeman had just given me my marching orders. Later that day, I told Sinjin I wanted to get more involved in Colorado TU and the rest is history.

“So I was a volunteer, but I didn’t really become an engaged volunteer until Charlie gave me the push I needed. We all know someone like this, someone who just needs a push to get involved. I want to encourage all of you to push that person – you might be creating a future Silver Trout Award winner.”

How can one engaged volunteer make a difference? I think of another person who inspires me: Kirk Klancke of CTU’s Colorado Headwaters chapter, who has worked for years to help heal the Fraser River, degraded by years of water diversions to the Front Range.

Through dogged persistence and passion for his home waters, Kirk has made a huge impact on the future health of the Fraser and Upper Colorado rivers.

This recent video shows how Kirk’s dedication has inspired scores of others (more than 150 people signed up for this spring’s willow planting) and promises a healthier and brighter future for the Fraser:


As Charlie Meyers wisely said, the rivers need people like Rick and Kirk, and you and me.

Sticking bare willow stakes in the ground might not look like much, but over time, those collective actions will take root and change the future.

Randy Scholfield is TU’s director of communications for the Southwest.

Backpacking for Greenbacks

By Dan Omasta (All photos courtesy of Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post)

It was turning out to be another beautiful July day in Colorado, as over 50 staff and volunteers from Trout Unlimited, Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) and various other government agencies and NGOs filed into the big dirt parking lot at the trailhead of Herman Gulch, just off I-70 west of Denver near Silver Plume.

Excitement was palpable, and everyone was ready to strap on their boots to help make a big difference for a small native trout—the greenback cutthroat.

The greenback, once believed to be extinct, is making a comeback in Colorado. Thanks to the efforts of state and federal agencies, NGOs and community volunteers, this threatened species is getting the boost it needs to return to its native range in the South Platte basin. In 2012, genetic scientists at the University of Colorado discovered a handful of the once-prolific trout in a small creek just outside of Colorado Springs. Since then, biologists from CPW, the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife, with boots-on-ground assistance from Trout Unlimited, have been collaborating to rebuild critical population strongholds along the Front Range.

Repopulating Herman Gulch with greenbacks is a big step in that effort.

As the hatchery trucks arrived with their big tanks full of eager (and presumably confused) fish, we all gathered behind the tailgate of a CPW truck and received instructions for transporting and releasing our native cargo. Then we separated into five groups that corresponded to certain distances along the trail: group five, for instance, would be hiking the full 3.5 miles above treeline, while group one would begin releasing fish in a particular stretch only a mile into the trek.

Everyone was excited as we lined up to get outfitted with our fish packs. Each TU volunteer and agency staff person would be carrying 15-20 yearlings (4-7 inches long) up the steep rocky trail into the remote, high-alpine headwaters.

The first mile of the hike was brutal--steep switchbacks made up the bulk of the first two hours of climbing. The whole experience felt like a Tough Mudder race combined with community conservation. The fish only had a few hours of oxygen in the bags, so volunteers slated to reach the highest stretches of stream moved quickly up the rocky, wooded path. Teams of fish packers often leap-frogged one another and received words of encouragement on the steady climb upward: “Almost there,” “It’s just around the corner,” “Sure, that’s what you said an hour ago!”

The hike was full of sweat, laughter and camaraderie as the group worked together to help establish this new population of native fish.

We had received instructions about where to release the fish along the small stream. Once our group reached our ¾ mile reach, we started looking for good habitat to release the fry. Volunteers split off from the group as they followed the sound of riffles and changes in gradient that suggested that on the other side of those willows would be a perfect eddy for these hungry, native trout.

At one bend, I unshouldered the pack and gently opened it along the bank. I set the bag of eager yearlings into the water to help them acclimate to the cold water—a process similar to bringing home that goldfish from the pet shop. About 15 minutes later, the fish were ready. As I poured the precious contents into the stream, the small greenbacks—maybe a dozen of them— swam eagerly out of the bag and into their new home in the clear, deep eddy by the undercut bank.

At first, they clumped together, seemingly unsure about where to go or hide in the cold, clear water. Then, a few of them finned into the current and began rising to the small mayfly hatch coming off the surface. These fish were raised in captivity, but generations of native instinct seemed to kick in almost immediately.

Repopulating a high alpine stream with fish that have never had to survive in such a harsh landscape continues to pose challenges. While these trout have done well in areas such as Zimmerman Lake, they must learn quickly the survival traits necessary to overcome runoff, ice flows and changing food patterns if they are going to stand a chance here. If this introduction is successful and the fish overwinter, Herman Gulch will become one of the first major streams to hold a significant population of pure greenback cutthroats.

This was a major undertaking and could not have been done without the dedication and resources of CPW biologists and hatchery technicians, federal agencies, NGOs and community volunteers. At the end of the day, our group helped to release 960 native greenbacks into Herman Gulch.

For me, the project also provided a shining example of teamwork and collaboration to counter the ongoing bitter partisanship and gridlock that has plagued our nation for years now. There we all were at 10,000 feet—families, retired nurses, young professionals, hunters, anglers, Democrats, Republicans, veterans and CEOs—all strapping on our hiking boots and working together to restore the greenback.

It was a good reminder of what can be accomplished when we work together.

For more information on greenback cutthroat trout recovery efforts, visit www.Coloradotu.org, or contact Dan Omasta, Colorado Trout Unlimited grassroots coordinator, at domasta@tu.org.

Revegetation at Lower Creek Site

By Lauren Duncan On June 14th, Trout Unlimited’s Abandoned Mine Lands team joined up with Colorado Trout Unlimited volunteers and US Forest Service staff and volunteers for a successful revegetation workday at the Lower Creek project site.

The Lower Creek site is located approximately 9 miles northwest of Boulder within the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests and Pawnee National Grassland in Boulder County, Colorado. Lower Creek (formerly known as Carnage Creek), is a tributary to Left Hand Creek in Boulder County and drains into the South Platte River is the prior to the 2013 floods, the area was used as an unregulated, undesignated shooting area for several decades. The accumulation of lead and target debris within the site became apparent during the flood event of 2013. In 2015, Trout Unlimited, the US Forest Service and RMC Consultants remediated the site to reduce concentrations of lead in soil, surface water, and streambed sediment.

The project team had the opportunity this year to revisit the site to complete follow up sampling to ensure the success of 2015 construction and to revegetate the site in areas where vegetation was struggling. This year’s efforts were extremely successful! Lefthand Watershed Oversight Group has conducted water quality sampling at the site, and their efforts have revealed greatly reduced lead levels across the site.

The revegetation work day included upwards of 20 staff and volunteers and, in several hours, we incorporated 600 pounds of fertilizer, 1,350 pounds of Biochar and 4,200 pounds of compost across the site. This was a tough day of work, but because of the efforts of everyone involved in the day, it was a great success.

Throughout this summer and early fall, Trout Unlimited and the Lefthand Watershed Oversight Group will continue to monitor revegetation success and perform water quality sampling under different flow conditions. We look forward to the future success of this site and are thankful to all our volunteers, project partners and for our continued programmatic support from Newmont Mining and Freeport-McMoRan.

Lauren Duncan is a projects manager for Trout Unlimited's Abandoned Mine Lands program in Colorado.