Fish Conservation on Roaring Springs Ranch

Article excerpt

The numerous streams flowing from Steens Mountain of southeastern Oregon into the surrounding valleys provide habitat for threatened Lahontan cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarki henshawi); other species petitioned for listing, such as the Catlow and Harney Basin redband trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss sspp.); and numerous sensitive species, such as the Catlow tui chub (Gila bicolor ssp.), mountain whitefish (Prosopium williamsoni), northern pikeminnow (Ptychocheilus oregonensis), and Malheur mottled sculpin (Cottus bairdii ssp.). In addition, private and public land management activities in the Steens Mountain area affect other species of concern, such as the sage grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) and Columbian spotted frog (Rana luteiventris). One of the surrounding valleys, the Catlow Valley, lies west of Steens Mountain and east of Hart Mountain, and supports two sensitive fish species, the Catlow tui chub and the Catlow Valley redband trout.

Catlow Valley also is home to the approximately 300,000-acre (120,000-hectare) Roaring Springs Ranch. In August 1997, representatives of the ranch, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW), Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) agreed on a Catlow Redband Trout and Catlow Tui Chub Conservation Strategy. Their strategy was to cooperate on approaches to balancing viable ranch operations and multiple-use management of Federal lands with the conservation needs of the trout and tui chub. The agreement identified the major threats facing the Catlow redband trout and tui chub, developed specific actions to address those threats, identified the parties responsible for implementing corrective actions, developed a time frame for implementation, and designed monitoring efforts to track success. The goal of the participants is to increase the species' numbers and restore the species to at least 80 percent of their historic habitats. Significant threats will be reduced or eliminated through improvements in riparian and instream habitats.

During 1998, Roaring Springs Ranch was allowed to graze private pastures, BLM lands, and parts of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in order to provide rest from livestock grazing to almost all of the public and private stream miles addressed by the agreement. The ranch and BLM attempted to either exclude livestock from Catlow Valley redband trout streams or use those stream reaches very early in the grazing rotation. Significant riparian habitat recovery was recorded, but some problem areas remained. In 1999, the ranch completely rested all of the stream miles addressed by the agreement. Ranch and BLM management activities, extensive fencing, and off-channel watering sources significantly enhanced Catlow Valley stream habitats.

The agreement has promoted numerous other conservation activities. To reduce erosion and sediment problems, the ranch rerouted its access road out of the bottom of the upper Skull Creek drainage, an occupied redband trout stream. BLM and ranch personnel also improved livestock watering sources in pastures away from sensitive riparian areas in a number of stream drainages. …