The greater Sierra Nevada region is the source of more than 60 percent of California's developed water supply. It also encompasses a rich variety of natural areas, supporting 50 percent of California’s plant species and 60 percent of the state’s animal species. Sierra meadows cover less than 2 percent of the overall Sierra-Cascade landscape, but they are biological hotspots that sustain the headwaters of several major California water sources.
Trout Unlimited is partnered with California Trout and others in the Sierra Meadows partnership. In 2016— in the Sierra Meadows Partnership—The Sierra Meadows Strategy for restoring and protecting our state’s Sierra Nevada meadows was officially released in 2016 after two years of rigorous scientific study by the partners. A key piece of CalTrout's source-waters-to-sea approach to combatting the effects of drought and climate change, this strategy developed among a broad coalition of conservation partners aims to restore and conserve meadows throughout the Sierra Nevada, protecting a major source of our state’s water supply and critical habitats to fish and other species. Read More
Photo by Mike Wier
University of California, Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, written by Will McCarthy.
When Jay Rowan learned in late April that trout in California hatcheries were exhibiting strange symptoms, he had been the hatchery production manager for California’s Department of Fish and Wildlife for less than a month. Already forced to rejigger operations after the coronavirus lockdowns, Mr. Rowan began to worry that a second crisis was on the way.
The employees at the Mojave River State Fish Hatchery noticed the trout were developing strange bubbles under their skin. Eyes bulged. Abdomens swelled. At first glance, the symptoms pointed to gas bubble disease, a condition that’s relatively common in hatcheries. Still, they proved odd enough that the state’s senior fish pathologist, Mark Adkison, sent a pathologist to run tests. Within a week, they had their answer: lactococcus garvieae, a rare bacterial infection. It was the first time the bacteria had ever been found in California.
As Mr. Rowan and his team were under statewide shelter-in-place orders, they moved to institute a lockdown of their own. The Mojave River hatchery, which holds about 860,000 rainbow trout, provides fish for most of the waterways in Southern California. Most fish on site had already been affected. If this bacteria somehow spread to other hatcheries, or spread in the wild, the reverberations could be devastating. It seemed surreal — a pandemic within a pandemic — but on May 4 the state quarantined the entire hatchery.
“It rarely, rarely comes to that,” Mr. Rowan said.
An investment analysis that looked at how much it would cost water users to build and operate the proposed Temperance Flat Dam northeast of Fresno without government funding was
finished earlier this year and quietly passed among water districts, which just as quietly asked the federal government to shelve work on the project. Read More
A range-wide genetic analysis of Lahontan cutthroat populations in Nevada, California and Oregon done by Helen Neville, Trout Unlimited’s senior scientist and UC-Davis in 2018 turned up hybrids — a mix Lahontan cutthroat and rainbow trout — in Independence Lake samples. As one of only two lakes in the world to support a relict self-sustaining and naturally reproducing population of Lahontan cutthroat trout, a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act, Independence Lake is irreplaceable.
A century of fire exclusion from Caples Creek drainage has led to higher fuel loading and tree density, which has increased the risk of high intensity wildfire. An important community water supply serving 110,000 people in the El Dorado Irrigation District is threatened, and the condition of meadows, streamside corridors, and aspen stands has declined. This project will complete 25 miles of prescribed fire containment line in preparation for 8,800 acres of burning. The project includes 4,400 acres of lower elevation understory burning, 4,400 acres of burning in vegetative islands mixed with rock at higher elevation, 25 acres of aspen restoration activities, and 25 acres of meadow restoration activities.
Caples Fire First Order Fire Effects. Preliminary Estimate of Burn Severity, Tree Mortality, and Fuel Consumption. Scott Dailey, USFS Enterprise Program
The Caples fire occurred in 2019 as part of the Caples Watershed Restoration project. A controlled burn was initiated at the end of September and classified as a wildfire in early October. The Fire Behavior Assessment Team (FBAT) has been in operation since 2003 and is a Multi-agency group of Fire/fuels managers, and fire scientists. Their task is to collect fire behavior and fire effects data for various objectives and agencies.
by Chris Wood June 24, 2020
Our iconic Snake River chinook salmon are down to less than 1 percent of their historic numbers.
With a few real exceptions, juvenile smolts in Idaho rear in some of the West’s best habitat, but on their way to the Pacific Ocean they must traverse eight dams, including four on the lower Snake River.
How do those dams impact their survival? A recent study used various approaches to estimate Snake River dam-related mortality and averaged their estimates with other comparable studies. The study confirms what scientists have been saying for decades. Read More
Wild summer-run steelhead in the Elwha were extinct before the dams came out. That’s right, extinct. Now – just six years after the dams were removed – hundreds of wild summer-runs have emerged, in all likelihood from the rainbow trout population that persisted above the dams, like a phoenix rising from the ashes.
No hatchery was used to produce summer-run steelhead. All it took was unimpeded access to the ocean for these amazing fish to reappear. And, let’s remember, this resurgence happened during a period of poor ocean conditions that have depressed other salmon and steelhead runs up and down the West Coast.
Nearly everyone agrees that Western rangelands will produce even larger and more frequent wildfires in the future. But are engineered fuel breaks the best answer?
Jack Williams, a scientist who worked for multiple federal agencies and Trout Unlimited says, “The primary culprit for larger fires in the Great Basin is cheatgrass, but warming temps compound the problem. Creating periodic firebreaks would help by breaking up and slowing down the flames. We can do that in a way that benefits the natural systems by expanding riparian and wet meadows along our small streams.”
The answer may be a small dose of much less expensive firebreaks and, surprisingly, strategies involving cows and beavers. Ranchers who fence streamside areas and/or rotate cows to rest pastures occasionally and allow streamside vegetation to grow back help re-establish natural firebreaks of lush green vegetation.
The objective of many BLM management efforts is to shift streams that have been degraded by stressors such as drought, wildfire, and historical grazing practices from a non-functioning designation to a proper functioning designation, and then make sure they stay that way. But how exactly do you do that, especially for such a massive landscape?
Land managers are increasingly turning to two natural approaches to restore degraded riparian areas and improve stream habitats, a one-two punch involving grazing management and beaver. New research led by TU scientists and BLM biologists shows just how effective these can be. Read More