Road map for Arizona Apache Trout recovery unveiled

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September 16th, 2009

L-R: Corbin L. Newman, Jr. U.S. Forest Service Southwestern Regional Forester, Dr. Benjamin Tuggle, Regional Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, John Cade White Mountain Apache Tribe, Larry Voyles, Director Arizona Game and Fish DepartmentThere is now a new road map for the recovery of Arizona’s state fish, the Apache Trout, which had been on the brink of extinction three decades ago.

Last week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the availability of a revised Apache Trout Recovery Plan, which was a collaborative planning effort amongst federal, state and tribal partners.

This revised recovery plan identifies actions to bolster populations in the wild, establishes benchmarks for measuring the progress of recovery, and estimates the costs of recovery.

Broad support for this collaborative recovery effort was recently highlighted at a signing ceremony for the Apache Trout Recovery Plan. The ceremony, hosted at the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s Sipe Wildlife Area south of Springerville, was attended by representatives from Arizona Game and Fish, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the White Mountain Apache Tribe, and the U.S. Forest Service.

“An updated recovery plan provides the Service and all the partners in Apache trout recovery with the most up-to-date scientific information and assures we are on the right path,” said Benjamin N. Tuggle, PhD, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Southwest Region.“I’m excited to say, if a recovery plan is a map to recovery – then we are well on our way to bringing the State Fish of Arizona back from the brink of extinction.”

Kirk Young, fisheries chief for Game and Fish, said the Apache trout recovery effort has been a model for partnering and collaboration. “What’s more, we feel confident that the Apache trout will become the first fish in the nation to be proposed for down-listing. We have the road map, know what needs to be done, and we will make it happen.”

The plan sets the benchmarks to achieving full recovery success under the Endangered Species Act. The final plan identifies a goal to establish at least 30 self-sustaining populations within the historic range and to minimize or reduce threats to the point that the populations are self-sustaining.

Due to ongoing recovery actions, the pure strains of the species are now found in 28 populations on the Tribe’s Fort Apache Indian Reservation and in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest.

A copy of the Recovery Plan and additional information can be found by visiting http://www.fws.gov/endangered/recovery/index.html#plans.

The Apache trout’s scientific Genus name Oncorhynchus means “hook snout,” referring to the hooked jaw of a breeding male, while the specific description Apache refers to the Native American Apache Tribes that live in the trout’s range. The golden-colored trout with black spots is native to the White Mountains in east-central Arizona.

Originally placed on the endangered species list in 1967, the trout was restricted to 13 populations, all on lands administered by the White Mountain Apache Tribe. A recovery plan was originally completed for Apache trout in 1979 and updated in 1983.

The main threats to the species are adverse land use practices resulting in habitat destruction and negative interactions (predation, hybridization and competition) with introduced nonnative species.

State wildlife officials pointed out that progress towards recovery would not have been possible without the White Mountain Apache Tribeand the angling community, including both labor and funding from groups like Trout Unlimited, Federation of Flyfishersand others.

Members of the Old Pueblo Trout Unlimitedchapter in Tucson regularly volunteer on barrier maintenance, crayfish removal, and habitat restoration projects in cooperation with state and federal biologists. Their support has been instrumental as a successful collaboration among multiple partners.

“The recovery of Apache trout is soon to be another success story enabled by the NorthAmerican Model of Wildlife Management,” Young said.

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