Fish barrier to protect Roan’s native cutthroats

The Bureau of Land Management plans to join with other entities to place a concrete fish barrier on the Roan Plateau northwest of Rifle to protect native Colorado River cutthroat trout.

The project is one of two wildlife-related projects the agency is undertaking in the drainage of the East Fork of Parachute Creek on the plateau. In a news release Tuesday, it said it also wants to burn up to 1,200 acres this fall to clear thick understory and old aspens and encourage aspen regrowth in the drainage to improve deer and elk habitat.

The BLM is working with Colorado Parks and Wildlife on both projects. The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and Trout Unlimited also are involved in the fish-barrier project.

Few populations of Colorado River cutthroats remain in the state, and the fish on the plateau are considered some of the most genetically pure, the BLM said. However, they are threatened by nonnative brook trout introduced in the drainage many years ago.

“If we don’t take action now, we expect the cutthroat to be completely gone from the East Fork in one to three years,” Tom Fresques, BLM West Slope Fisheries biologist, said in the release.

The barrier will be placed near the confluence with Third Water Gulch, keeping brook trout from moving upstream. That will let biologists reclaim the cutthroat population upstream.

Local energy producer Williams is contributing $75,000 for a three-year Roan forest-health project. The BLM hopes to burn about 600 acres in the Grassy and Camp gulch areas this fall, along with another 600 acres near First Anvil Creek if time and conditions allow. It plans to burn a 219-acre parcel next year.

Due to the high moisture content of aspens, controlled burns of aspens usually must occur in the fall. The BLM says it will try to avoid big-game hunting seasons, but that could be difficult. However, it says wildlife usually doesn’t move far from fires, and impacts to hunters this fall should be minimal, while the project should improve long-term hunting opportunities.

More information on the fish and fire projects can be obtained by calling the BLM’s Colorado River Valley Field Office at 970-876-9000.


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