Two Santa Fe reservoirs could help restore Rio Grande cutthroat
Aspen, CO Colorado
SANTA FE, N.M. ” The state Department of Game and Fish wants to stock Rio Grande cutthroat trout in Santa Fe’s two reservoirs, McClure and Nichols, in the watershed east of the city.
The plan calls for the staff at New Mexico’s Seven Springs fish hatchery to collect tagged trout from the reservoirs before the fish spawn in late spring, harvest the eggs and sperm, and raise the fish back at the hatchery, said fisheries Director Mike Sloane.
Young trout then would be taken to such places as Valle Vidal’s Comanche Creek, where the state agency is trying to increase the population of cutthroats.
“We anticipate having a need for a good number of these fish next year” to keep the species off the federal endangered species list, Sloan said.
The large fish is popular with anglers, so raising them in secure locations where there is no fishing, such as the Santa Fe watershed, is important.
“We need good habitat where the trout won’t get fished out,” Sloane said.
The cutthroat trout once lived throughout the Rio Grande basin, but the species today survives only in 10 percent of its historic range. Officials say that’s due to development, grazing, logging and other impacts.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has said only 13 core populations exist. The federal agency is reviewing the species’ status and will decide next spring whether to list it as endangered.
The city Public Utilities Committee will hear the stocking plan Wednesday. If it favors the proposal, state and city staff members will draft a memorandum of agreement for the City Council to consider.
The city’s water utilities director, Gary Martinez, said his staff is excited at the possibility.
“We think it is going to be pretty neat,” he said. “It could be good for the whole state.”
The McClure and Nichols reservoirs, which feed into the Santa Fe River, supply up to 40 percent of the capital city’s drinking water.
The reservoirs still contain some rainbow trout.
The cutthroat program is designed so any interbreeding between the rainbow and the cutthroat won’t harm the genetic purity of the collected cutthroat trout eggs, Sloan said. Fisheries staff can ensure the eggs are the pure strain since only eggs from tagged trout will be used and the fish will be captured before spawning each spring, he said.
The Game and Fish Department also plans to stock Rio Grande cutthroats in Pecos Wilderness streams.
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