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DOW Telluride Meeting for Native Colorado River Cutthroat Trout

The Colorado Division of Wildlife and the U.S. Forest Service will hold a public meeting concerning the proposed Woods Lake native fish restoration project, 6-8 p.m., April 10 at the Wilkinson Public Library in Telluride.

The project, scheduled for the summer of 2009, is being planned to help restore the native Colorado River cutthroat trout in the San Juan Mountains. The fish is the only species of trout native to southwest Colorado. Attending the meeting to explain the project and to answer questions will be Dan Kowalski, an aquatic biologist with the DOW, and Chris James, a fisheries biologist with the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forest.

Part of the project will include treating Wood's Lake and about four miles of nearby streams with a naturally derived chemical that will kill all the fish in those waters. The chemical, rotenone, is an extract from a South American plant. The chemical, which is registered with the Environmental Protection Agency, breaks down quickly in the environment and has been used for years throughout the world for similar projects. After the treatment, the waters will be restocked with cutthroats.

The Colorado River cutthroat trout was nearly eliminated from the San Juans in the late 1800s during the mining boom. Streams were fished excessively by settlers, waters were polluted by mine-site runoff, and non-native fish, rainbow and brown trout, were introduced and eventually dominated the fisheries.

Over the years, DOW biologists found remnant populations of cutthroats in remote streams and have used those to develop brood stocks in hatcheries. The native fish are now being stocked in waters throughout southwest Colorado and wild populations are being re-established. Colorado River cutthroats now occupy only about 13 percent of their historic range.

The Woods Lake area is being considered as a restoration site because the waters are pristine and the area is remote. The native cutthroats can't compete with non-native fish and isolated areas must be used to get the fish re-established.

"We are concerned about the species and Woods Lake is a great location for building the population," Kowalski said.

Because a portion of the project is within the federally designated Lizard Head Wilderness Area, the Forest Service will need to conduct an environmental assessment of the project under the rules of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The environmental assessment will document the analysis of site-specific, on-the-ground activities. If the assessment is favorable, the Forest Service will issue the DOW a special use permit for the project.

The Forest Service is now accepting public comments about the project. The comment period is from March 24 through April 23. If you are interested in providing comments on the project, they can be mailed to Chris James, 2505 South Townsend Avenue, Montrose, CO 81401; e-mail -; or faxed to (970) 240-5367. Comments can also be submitted at the public meeting in Telluride.

For more information on the project, contact Chris James at (970)240-5421.