After a set of meetings this week, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department is asking the public to help with the future conservation of cutthroat trout in the Bighorn Basin. The department is not proposing specific projects but instead wants to collaborate with the public on a set of recommendations for the trout’s future restoration efforts.
Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout is the only species of trout native to the Bighorn Basin, and its population has steeply declined in recent years. The trout only occupies eight percent of its historical habitat, including the entire west slope of the Bighorn mountains. The Cody Regional Fisheries Supervisor, Sam Hochhalter, said the goal of this collaboration is to find locations on the landscape where Game and Fish can introduce new populations of the fish.
“That oftentimes requires opening up habitat that are currently occupied by non-native trout, mainly brook trout and, in some cases, rainbow trout,” said Hochhalter. “This is where we get a wrinkle with the public who have an interest with fishing opportunities on the landscape.”
Hochhalter acknowledged the public may not have the same interests in conserving the trout but he said it’s still important to get lots of people in the room to have a conversation.
“When you get these diverse people together in a room I have no doubt that they will be able to forward a balance that we can move forward with,” said Hochhalter.
After the first round of public meetings, Game and Fish plan to hold at least three more meetings with the public. They are hoping to have a final proposed solution for conservation by this spring.