Nevada, tribe pledge cooperation in restoring cutthroat
RENO — State wildlife officials and the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe are pledging cooperation to try to restore Nevada’s threatened state fish to the Truckee River.
Although lacking in specifics, the pact between the tribe and the Nevada Division of Wildlife maps a course for the long-range effort, said Gene Weller, the division’s deputy administrator.
“It’s just visionary,” Weller said Tuesday. “At this point we’re really not sure how we’re going to go about this. But our concept is, let’s just take it one bite at a time.”
Alan Mandell, chairman of the Pyramid Lake Tribal Council, called the partnership a “historic turn of events.”
“We are committed to restoring the Lahontan cutthroat to its original habitat in the Truckee River and to validating the state fish’s value to sport fishing in the Truckee,” Mandell said. “This joint partnership will help us to get closer to those goals.”
Officials plan to mark the agreement Friday with a ceremonial release of Lahontan cutthroats at Idlewild Park in Reno.
The agreement notes habitat improvement projects along the lower Truckee River, including construction of a $3.9 million fishway that will allow fish to swim from Pyramid Lake around Derby Dam for the first time in more than 90 years to spawn upstream in the river.
The partnership also marks a turning point in the relationship between state and federal wildlife officials, who have been at odds over recovery of the fish in the Truckee River.
“The Division of Wildlife has been hesitant to embrace restoration of cutthroat in the Truckee River because of the challenges of the Endangered Species Act,” Weller said. “If we establish cutthroat in the Truckee and declare that a recovering strain, we’re concerned it will preclude us from using the Truckee River as a recreational fishery.”
Lahontan cutthroat was once the dominant fish in Nevada. But about a century ago the population began a rapid decline, brought on by pollution, dams, overfishing and the introduction of nonnative fish. Native cutthroats disappeared from Pyramid Lake in the 1940s, shortly after they vanished from Lake Tahoe, which feeds the Truckee River.
The species was listed as endangered in 1970 and reclassified as threatened five years later.
Thompson said the strain of cutthroat to be used in the state and tribal program probably won’t meet Endangered Species Act criteria for a recovery plan because it comes from outside the immediate area.
“But it’s still part of the same family and we can study how it works in the Truckee River system and we will gain knowledge of how this fish used to live in the river,” she said.
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