Cutthroat trout conservation project to begin in upper Shields River watershed
By Moosetrack Megan

Posted: July 13, 2022

WILSALL – Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, in collaboration with the Custer Gallatin National Forest, will begin a project this month to conserve native Yellowstone cutthroat trout in the upper Shields River watershed.

This year’s phase of the project includes removing brook trout from several tributaries to the Shields River: Clear Creek, Scofield Creek, Turkey Creek and an unnamed tributary near Lodgepole Creek.

From July 18 through 22, the Custer Gallatin National Forest will have an area closure on the Upper Shields River Loop, just past the Sunlight Trailhead Junction for National Forest System Road No. 844 and all associated spur roads, recreation sites and amenities along the upper Shields River Loop. This includes Crandall Creek Cabin, Shields River dispersed camping sites and Turkey Creek Trailhead.

“Brook trout invaded the upper Shields River watershed in recent decades and have become a primary threat to headwater populations of Yellowstone cutthroat trout,” said Carol Endicott, FWP’s Yellowstone cutthroat trout conservation biologist in Livingston. “The project area is a stronghold for a core conservation population of Yellowstone cutthroat trout at high elevation and the northernmost extent of their range.”

The brook trout will be removed from the project area using a plant-derived fish toxicant called rotenone. Rotenone is routinely used in fisheries management and breaks down quickly in the aquatic environment. It offers an effective means of removing fish species that are incompatible with the management goals of a fishery without endangering the surrounding habitat.

Crews will collect Yellowstone cutthroat trout from these tributaries before beginning the project and return them to the streams when the project is complete. Detoxification stations will be set up to ensure there are no negative effects to gill-breathing organisms downstream.

FWP published a draft environmental assessment for this project in May, hosted public meetings and solicited public comments through June 23. All comments received were in favor of the project. FWP has issued a decision notice to move forward with the project.

To learn more about the project, visit go.usa.gov/xSrhY.