LaBarge Creek Cutthroat Trout Restoration Project
September 7, 2005
In an attempt to ensure the continual existence of natural reproducing Colorado River cutthroat trout populations throughout their native range, the Wyoming Game & Fish Department is attempting to restore native cutthroat trout to the LaBarge Creek watershed.
In order to do this, efforts are being made by the Game & Fish and U.S. Forest Service to maintain quality habitat and elimitate the deleterious effects from introduced, non-native trout species.
Exotic species can out-compete native fish to a point where they are lost completely.This was just the case with the Colorado River cutthroat trout, the only native trout in Wyoming’s upper Green River drainage. When the native trout numbers dwindled from over-exploitation by early settlers, the openings were filled with non-native rainbow, brown and brook trout.
What seemed like harmless and desirable sport fish ended up contributing to the decline of the native Colorado River cutthroat. In fact, cutthroat numbers have declined so much across their historic range that the species was petitioned to be listed as an endangered species in 1999. Fortunately, it was found to be unwarranted, a tleast for now.
The LaBarge restoration project is an effort to restore native trout throughout the entire upper drainage of LaBarge watershed. "This is a Herculean effort and the first of this magnitude for a river system in the state of Wyoming," said Hilda Sexauer, Pinedale regional fisheries supervisor, in a Game & Fish news release.
The initial planning of this project began in 1999 and continues annually. "All chemical treatments require a lot of planning, even those in closed basins," she said. "However, the logistics of implementation is more difficult in flowing waters because of the complexity of the stream channel and all the tributaries."
"This project includes the removal of unwanted aquatic species from about 18 stream miles on LaBarge Creek, plus an additional 19 tributaries or so. The total area that will, be restored to the native fish assemblage is over 58 streammiles," Sexauer said.
In 2001 a fish migration barrier was installed on lower LaBarge Creek to prevent fish from swimming into the restoration area from downstream. Once the barrier was in place, the Game and Fish was able to begin removal of unwanted fish species from the main stem LaBarge Creek. Fish managers used two piscicides, or fish-killing agents, called antimycin and rotenone. These chemicals have been safely used in many fish restoration projects throughout the United States and have proven highly effective in removing unwanted fish species from aquatic systems.
To accomplish all this, Game and Fish personnel from across the state assisted with a total of about 300 man-days used during the 12-day project. "This is a big project and could not have been accomplished without the hard work and dedication of Wyoming Game and Fish Department and U.S. Forest Service personnel," said Sexauer.
Game and Fish and forest service personnel completed their second year of treatment on the main stem LaBarge Creek in early September and they will go back and do it again one more year just to make sure they’ve removed all unwanted fish.
The Game and Fish will begin restocking the creek with Colorado River cutthroat trout and other native fish in 2007 with hopes of having a natural reproducing population of cutthroat trout established by 2010.
This will be the longest section of connected stream miles in the state with a fishable native Colorado River cutthroat trout population.