|WESTSLOPE CUTTHROAT TROUT|
Encompassing approximately 100 km of stream habitat and 8 acres of lake habitat, this was one of the largest piscicide renovation projects ever undertaken for cutthroat trout conservation. The majority of the project took place on private land and was a collaborative effort among the land owner – Turner Enterprises, Inc. – and public resource management agencies – MTFWP and the USFS.
Nonnative fish removal
Due to the large spatial
scale involved, nonnative fish were
removed from the treatment area in four phases, with
each phase treated on at
least two separate occasions. The
piscicide (antimycin) was applied at a rate
of 10 parts per billion (ppb) to remove rainbow (O. mykiss), brook (Salvelinus
fontinalis), and Yellowstone cutthroat (O.
c. bouvieri) trout from phases 1 and 2.
Rotenone (50 ppb) was used to eliminate the
nonnative trout in phases 3
and 4. While
phases were isolated from
recolonization during project implementation by a
combination of natural and
artificial fish movement barriers, the overall
project area is protected from
reinvasion by an 8 m waterfall at the downstream end
of phase 4. Piscicide
completed in 2010.
WCT introductions into
the phase 1 area were initiated in
2006 using remote stream-side egg incubators. Introductions
were completed in 2012 with the stocking
of young-of-year fish into phase 4. During
this time, approximately 37,000 eyed eggs and 8,500
young-of-year fish from
multiple wild populations and a hatchery
conservation broodstock were
temporary fish barriers
were removed in 2011 to reconnect the phases. Post-treatment
monitoring documented WCT
throughout the project area in 2012 and at least two
years of natural
reproduction, while finding no remaining nonnative
expect that natural reproduction from
these introduced fish will continue to fill the
project area until the system’s
carrying capacity is reached.
The Cherry Creek project is a significant conservation achievement for WCT on the east side of the continental divide. This project increases the length of stream occupied by WCT in the Madison River basin from 7 km to over 100 km (or from 0.3% of historical occupancy to almost 5%). Perhaps more importantly, the success of the Cherry Creek project has catalyzed several other cutthroat trout reintroduction projects in southwestern MT. It is important to note that due to the large barrier falls, the Cherry Creek project area was historically fishless. Thus, this project actually represents a novel introduction of WCT to a previously inaccessible area within the subspecies’ historical range. By providing full- and part-time biological staff, purchasing equipment and chemicals, and cost-sharing agency expenses, Turner Enterprises, Inc. carried over 75% of the project cost.
The Cherry Creek project is recognized as a model example of a collaborative conservation effort, receiving a Collaborative Group Award from the MT Chapter of the American Fisheries Society (AFS) in 2007, a Collaborative Aquatic Stewardship Award from the USFS in 2010, and a Conservation Achievement Award from the Western Division of AFS in 2011. This and other cutthroat trout projects were a major reason that Turner Enterprises, Inc./Turner Endangered Species Fund received the President’s Fishery Conservation Award from the National AFS in 2012.
Education & research
Map of the Cherry Creek WCT project area