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U.S. Department of the Interior

Office of the Secretary

For release: April 16, 1998

Contact: Jamie Workman (202) 208-6416

BABBITT, TRIBE, PUBLIC RESTORE MONSTER TROUT NEAR RENO

“SEEDS OF HOPE” FIRST STEP TOWARDS REPLENISHING RARE LAHONTAN TO TRUCKEE

Endangered Species Act success story has ecological and economic benefits. Impact to Nevada: helps diversify economy, boost angler days per year to goal of 1,500; attract 53,000 new anglers (224,000 total) who spend $260 million more ($319 million total) than before Clinton Admin..

The first western settlers in Nevada assumed they had arrived at the coast when they caught 50 pound Lahontan native trout in Pyramid Lake and mistook them for Pacific salmon. These monster fish, the largest trout in North America, were part of the native culture and way of life for thousands of years. They are Nevada’s official state fish. They spawned in huge numbers up the Truckee River into Lake Tahoe and other alpine lakes and tributaries. But diversions, overfishing, predator species and pollution caused these spawning runs to vanish in the Truckee...Until now.

On Saturday morning, April 18, Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt helps the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe and Trout Unlimited place innovative, low cost, streambank incubators in the lower Truckee River. Each one will hold 90,000 eyed-up Lahontan cutthroat eggs. The hatched fry will imprint to the water and return there for spawning, naturally restocking the river with wild trout for the first time in six decades.

“We are, literally, sowing seeds of hope in one of America’s most contested rivers,” said Babbitt. “With this step, we come closer to the day when this member of God’s creation is no longer endangered, and when our children and grandchildren can once again catch wild, native 30-pound trout spawning up the river through Reno toward Lake Tahoe.”

Matt Holford, chairman of the Nevada Council of Trout Unlimited, stressed the strong links between native wildlife, people’s heritage and their sense of place. The incubators and restoration effort is part of a statewide education program centered on Lahontan cutthroat trout. “If the program is successful,” said Holford, “young anglers and the general public will regain the values of improving and maintaining native fish habitat. Lahontan Cutthroat Trout are our heritage, our offical state fish. They are a worthy game fish. And they should be brought back to the Truckee river”.

This restoration is the latest geared toward native trout recovery in the Silver State. Last June, Babbitt announced a coordinated public lands campaign to replenish wild and native fish stocks, spur rural economic growth, reduce flood and fire damage, and steer rare and declining trout and salmon species off or away from the Endangered Species list. The campaign combined pilot restoration efforts under a clear, unified national plan, and doubled funds available for it.

Under this drive, to “Bring Back the Natives,” Babbitt and Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman released more than $5 million in new federal and private grants for more than 44 innovative projects that will directly replenish aquatic habitat for native fish species in 14 states this year.Ultimately, the drive will restore habitat on 283,000 miles of streams and 6.5 million acres of lakes within 462 million acres, or 70 percent of all federal lands.

"If at first this joint campaign seems modest in cost,” said Babbitt, “just consider its on-the-ground impact: Every public nickel is matched by private dimes, every quarter is pumped directly into the local watershed, every dollar bill invested towards a self-sustaining native fishery yields a fiver for community businesses in that watershed. In this way, the Endangered Species Act fuels, guides and expands the base of rural economic growth."

Babbitt boosted his Bureau of Reclamation into the federal-private team of the USDA Forest Service, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and private and non-profit groups like Trout Unlimited. He integrated the use of federal fish hatcheries to replenish rare native fish as a priority. And he unveiled the economic and ecological rewards of this leveraged approach, state by state.

More native fish habitat = more anglers, revenue

Consider the impact to Nevada alone. Statewide, Lahontan habitat shrank from 2,200 miles to 300. But on the Marys River watershed near Elko, Bring Back the Natives invests grants toward exchanging land, purchasing water rights, building fence exclosures, drilling wells, removing culverts and planting 15,000 aspen, chokecherries and alders. This eventually helps boost angler days to 1,500 per year, attracting more anglers, and their wallets, to Nevada, from 171,000 in 1991 to 224,000 last year, who increase annual spending from $80 million in 1991 to $319 million last year.

The campaign promotes focused cooperation between government agencies, and sets up a way to build partnerships with the private sector, from mining companies to timber corporations.

Though it can drive and expand rural economic prosperity, this watershed approach will help restore 183 rare species throughout America. Trout are sensitive to habitat, needing cold and clean streams. They form a keystone species that links aquatic plants and animals throughout the watershed. To recover one is to replenish all. For example, helping the Lahontan trout will aid the endangered cui-ui, from which the Pyramid Lake Paiute drew their name and culture.

Babbitt compared this program on the Truckee with efforts to reintroduce another wild native 60 pound predator to the wild in the west: the wolf. Both depend on grassroots support and partnerships united and directed under one federal law that is up for a rewrite.

“By engaging conservationists and private industry to take ‘ownership’ in restoration efforts,” said Babbitt, “we can take proactive measures to downlist some species to threatened status, keep declining populations off the list altogether, or push a recovering creatures towards the exit signs on that list. As a program to generate trust, stability, matching funds, and teamwork, this stands as a model as we debate reauthorizing the Endangered Species Act.”

-DOI-

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