Trout Unlimited and cattle ranchers in rural Nevada partner up for native Lahontan cutthroat trout and the results are groundbreaking.
For many people, trout restoration and commercial cattle ranching don't go together. But in rural parts of the rugged West that is exactly what's happening and exactly what is making a difference in bringing back this amazing native trout.
The Lahontan Basin is large expanse of semiarid land stretching between Oregon, California, and Nevada and is a part of the Great Basin. This is big-country and can be very harsh on the humans and animals that call it home. However, the basin also provides important habitat for wildlife, fish, and cattle and exceptional hunting and fishing can be found here.
Lahontan trout are the only native trout of this area making them one of the species' most adaptable and enduring subspecies. Throughout its existence, the Lahontan Basin has seen massive fluctuations between wet and dry seasons. Despite these huge changes, the Lahontan trout has remained and "embodies all that is exceptional about this rugged landscape: history, beauty, adaptability, and perseverance."
Thanks to the incredible partnerships with ranchers through programs such as TU's Conservation Ranching, Lahontan cutthroat trout are migrating into areas they haven't been in for decades.
"Why wouldn't you want the native fish in there and thriving and healthy? If it's part of the system it should be there," said Jessie Braatz, manager of Squaw Valley Ranch.
It makes sense that cattle ranchers in this region would relate to this fascinating trout. Ranchers, too, have dealt with changes, both in the natural and human climates, and have persevered. In the past, the mindset of those that lived and worked this region was often not focused on issues of wildlife management. But modern wildlife biology, paired with the communication advancements of today, has resulted in rancher's goals often being aligned with wildlife restoration efforts.
As Jon Griggs, manager of one of Nevada's largest cow/calf commercial ranches, Maggie Creek, put it, "We like seeing [Lahontan] as much as anybody else. We feel like... good wildlife habitat makes good cattle habitat."
And indeed it does. Increased Lahontan habitat has meant more stock water and better grassland for Maggie Creek's cattle.
And these unique partnerships between those in agriculture and those in wildlife conservation benefit more than just the animals and the land. The disconnect between the average American and their food is a frequent topic in the ranching (and hunting) community. Relationships between commercial ranchers with organizations such as TU is important.
Griggs says, "Any time we can make those partnerships... and the more of those we can make is good. ... I think more people need to know how their food is grown and more of us that grow the food need to try to make those relationships."
Long live the Lahontan trout and the habitat that they, and ranchers, love.