Poudre Headwaters Native Trout Restoration

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Trout Unlimited is proud to be a partner with the US Forest Service, Rocky Mountain National Park, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and Colorado Parks and Wildlife in launching Colorado’s largest-ever restoration effort for native trout. Together, the partners plan to restore Greenback cutthroat trout to nearly 40 miles of connected streams and multiple lakes in the Cache la Poudre headwaters (including Long Draw Reservoir) to create a stronghold for Colorado’s state fish. Another key partner, the Water Supply and Storage Company (operators of Long Draw Reservoir), has provided $1.25 million toward the project as part of a mitigation agreement for its reservoir easement.

 
 The "Big South" - the Cache la Poudre River, near Rocky Mountain National Park.  This cascade - possibly with some enhancement - will serve as the downstream barrier protecting the connected habitat restored for Greenback cutthroat trout.

The "Big South" - the Cache la Poudre River, near Rocky Mountain National Park.  This cascade - possibly with some enhancement - will serve as the downstream barrier protecting the connected habitat restored for Greenback cutthroat trout.

THE LONG ROAD TO RESTORATION

To protect the watershed from invasion by non-native species, fish barriers will be established on the Grand Ditch and on the mainstem Cache la Poudre below its confluence with La Poudre Pass Creek. Within the watershed, temporary barriers will also be installed to enable fishery biologists to complete restoration of native trout in more manageable chunks, tackling one section of the basin at a time.  After installing temporary barriers, biologists will remove non-native fish from the upstream areas so that the restored native fish will be secure from predation, hybridization or displacement. Once a sub-basin is confirmed to be free of non-native trout, it will be re-stocked with native greenback cutthroat trout. Finally, once restoration is complete across the full area, the temporary barriers will be removed so that fish will be able to move freely between the different restored tributaries.  Completion of all project elements is expected to take 2-3 years in each subbasin, and 10-15 years overall, but once completed it will provide for a connected "metapopulation" of trout across the watershed - the largest such restored native trout habitat in Colorado. The area will be highly protected, spanning wilderness in the northern part of Rocky Mountain National Park and across the Arapaho-Roosevelt National Forests.

 A natural fish barrier in the Hague Creek drainage.

A natural fish barrier in the Hague Creek drainage.

 A volunteer releases native trout into a high mountain stream as part of a Colorado Parks & Wildlife restoration project.

A volunteer releases native trout into a high mountain stream as part of a Colorado Parks & Wildlife restoration project.

FROM CONFLICT TO COLLABORATION

The ambitious program is the culmination of many years of litigation over appropriate mitigation for the Long Draw Reservoir authorization, spearheaded by Colorado Trout Unlimited and the Rocky Mountain Flycasters Chapter. The legal battle over mitigating the reservoir site gave way to a cooperative project for restoring native trout on a broad scale, including within Long Draw Reservoir itself.

Through the legal settlement, the Water Supply and Storage Company established a $1.25 million trust for purposes of funding these restoration activities. Colorado Trout Unlimited serves as the Trustee, while the U.S. Forest Service is the lead agency for project implementation. Ultimately the project will cost an estimated $1.75 million – so TU and its partners are actively seeking additional funds to help support this ambitious program.  You can lend your support here.

An early and valued supporter of the effort is Odell Brewing. TU's Rocky Mountain Flycasters Chapter is the Odell Charity Partner program recipient for July, August and September 2018.  In support of the Poudre Headwaters restoration, one-half of proceeds being donated by Odell Brewing will be set aside for use in the greenback recovery project. To celebrate the headwaters of their “home water”, Odell joined with TU and the Forest Service in crafting a new “Cold Water 1” beer that will be served on draft at the Ft Collins tasting room starting July 1. Cold Water 1 refers to the state water quality designation for high-quality coldwater streams like those found in the Poudre headwaters.