James E. Brooks 5401 Cresswell Rd SW Albuquerque, NM

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1 James E. Brooks 5401 Cresswell Rd SW Albuquerque, NM Memorandum To: From: Subject: Joseph McGurrin, Trout Unlimited James E. Brooks Trip Report, Non-native trout removal efforts with a large Trout Unlimited Volunteer effort for Willow Creek Drainage, June 2016 Date: 31 October 2016 This memorandum provides a summary for continued non-native trout removal in the Willow Creek drainage. The 2016 efforts included a significant turnout of Trout Unlimited (TU) volunteers from the Truchas and Gila/Rio Grande chapters. A total of 16 participating individuals represented the two TU chapters (including one New Mexico State Council member), New Mexico State University (including one graduate student working on a Gila River Basin temperature monitoring study), New Mexico Department of Game and Fish (NMDGF), U.S. Forest Service (USFS), Gila Trout Recovery Team, private TU contractors, and, of course, yourself. All fish sampling activities were authorized under State of New Mexico Collecting Permit. All data collected for that portion of the fish sampling I supervised are included in the attached spreadsheet. Additional data for the remainder of the effort are held by the federal and State agencies. As part of this effort I coordinated and provided for meals for all participants. This included acquiring the services of two excellent camp cooks. David Propst, retired NMDGF/Recovery Team Leader/former Bosque Chapter President, and Nick Smith, retired NMDGF wolf biologist and knowledgeable long-time Gila trout field participant, ensured that all participants were well fed. Fish sampling by backpack electrofishing occurred upstream of the, at that time, permanent barrier being constructed on Willow Creek approximately. With the large number of individuals participating, sampling efforts were divided among three crews. Two of those crews were supervised by NMDGF biologists and I supervised the third. Stunned fish collected during electrofishing were netted identified, enumerated, lengths (total, standard) and weight measured, and returned alive to the stream. Prior to last year s removal effort Gila trout were stocked immediately before our sampling efforts and any Gila trout collected was minimally counted and assigned to three general size categories. That did not occur in 2016 and all Gila trout collected were measured for length and weight, examined for health status, and returned to the stream. For speckled dace, we measured the first approximate 100 individuals sampled, thereafter only counting individuals sampled. Other native species sampled were desert sucker and Sonora sucker. No non-native trout were sampled during this effort.

2 Fish collection data presented below are for two days sampling efforts by the crew I supervised for two collections in Willow Creek and one in tributary Little Turkey Creek. Lower Willow Creek and Little Turkey Creek Fish Collections Sampling by our crew occurred on the lower portion of Willow Creek, beginning immediately upstream of the permanent barrier construction site. We sampled two distinct reaches on Willow Creek during June 2016 with the upstream limit of sampling terminated approximately 500 m upstream of the Little Turkey Creek confluence. Our crew consisted of five individuals representing TU, NMDGF, and USFS. Two other crews sampled the middle portion of Willow Creek immediately downstream of a private property boundary (approximately two miles upstream of our efforts), and further upstream in the North and South forks of Willow Creek. The lowermost sample by our crew resulted in the collection of four native species representing three families in 6,612 seconds of electrofishing effort (Table 1). Gila trout were encountered in increasingly greater numbers as we progressed upstream. Speckled dace were abundant and widespread and the two native sucker species were less frequently encountered during sampling. Table 1. Results of backpack electrofishing on lower Willow Creek 1 and Little Turkey Creek, June Total Field Coll. Seconds Speckled Desert Sonora Sucker Gila Number Electrofished Dace Sucker Sucker Species 2 Number Trout Collected JEB ,612 1, ,539 JEB , JEB , TOTAL 12,865 1, ,478 1 Data for fishes collected by lower field crew only, does not include upper Willow Creek data. 2 Individuals < 25 mm TL and not identifiable in the field. For the lower collections by our crew Gila trout ranged mm Total Length (TL) (Table 2). None of these individuals appeared to be survivors of the large, retired broodstock Gila trout stocked by Mora National Fish Hatchery during Most of the stocked broodstock were > 300 mm TL. Surprisingly, Little Turkey Creek with minimal discharge and few large and deep pool habitats yielded a 258 mm TL Gila trout and nearly twice the total number of Gila trout collected there in June Habitat conditions were improved from June 2015 with greater discharge and increased habitat diversity at time of sampling. Table 2. Total length (mm) and weight (g) data for fishes collected on lower Willow Creek 1 and Little Turkey Creek, June Numbers are mean ± 1 standard deviation (range). Field Coll. Number Speckled Dace Desert Sucker Sonora Sucker Sucker Species 1 Gila Trout JEB ± ± ±18.6 (35-94) (67-256) ( ) NA JEB Not Measured 134.2± ±17.2 ( ) ( ) NA JEB Not Measured 106.4± ±24.3 (92-118) ( ) Not Measured 1 Data for fishes collected by lower field crew only, does not include upper Willow Creek data ±27.0 ( ) 145.5±32.1 ( ) 131.9±28.5 (91-258)

3 Trout Unlimited Volunteer Opportunity During the June 2015 sampling effort a single TU volunteer assisted with field survey efforts. For 2016 additional lead time in notification of a volunteer opportunity and increased communication with TU chapters in New Mexico resulted in a very positive turnout of volunteers. We had seven volunteers pariticpate in the field effort, including representation from two chapters and the NM Council (Art Vollmer), the NM Sportsman Conservation Coordinator (Jason Amaro), and the National TU Office (Joe McGurrin). Participation by biologists from USFS and NMDGF, NMSU graduate students, and contractors allowed for a positive environment for interactions between agency, academic, and TU members involved with Gila trout conservation. Families with kids were encountered at two campgrounds during the sampling and provided a great opportunity for showing kids trout and talking about the importance of good trout habitat. One of the families included a third grade teacher from Silver City, NM, and she was incredibly enthused about the educational opportunity. All in all, this is one of the most successful volunteer efforts that I have been involved with in my professional career. The interest and dedication of TU members was evident and is critical to conservation of Gila trout. Future Work The barrier construction project was completed approximately two months after this field survey effort. Due to potential unrestricted access to upper Willow Creek by non-native trout during the construction project future non-native trout survey efforts will be required. At present no nonnative trout are known to occur upstream of the barrier. In addition, stream habitat conditions in the Willow Creek drainage are poor (unstable banks, habitats dominated by shallow riffles, lack of sinuosity in stream corridor) and require improvement to support a stable Gila trout population. Conversations held between all participants around the campfire, during meals, and in the field addressed future needs for ensuring successful Gila trout conservation in the Willow Creek drainage. A Willow Creek Gila trout population that can support conservation priorities and also provide for recreational angling is attainable and coordinated efforts between agencies and TU will be critical. Willow Creek provides for a unique opportunity with hike-in wilderness streams in the headwaters with wild trout and a near four mile reach of stream with road access and camp grounds allowing access to the larger angling public. Species conservation, active volunteer participation, private land cooperation, children s education, and interaction with public agencies are all available to the Gila trout conservation program at Willow Creek. At the time of writing this trip report and as an initial step in future Gila trout conservation efforts, a grant application was submitted on 30 October 2016 to the Wilderness Stewardship Performance Awards Grant Program of the National Wilderness Stewardship Alliance. This project proposal would continue sampling to ensure elimination of non-native brown trout and initiate habitat assessments for Wilderness-based and adjacent portions of the Willow Creek drainage in support of future conservation efforts. This grant application was developed and submitted by the Gila/Rio Grande TU Chapter and supported by the Gila National Forest Supervisor s office, three ranger districts, and the USFS Regional Office.

4 APPENDIX Photo Gallery

5 Lower Willow Creek within the area burned by Whitewater-Baldy Wildfire in Jill Wick, NMDGF Gila Trout Biologist, conducts a tailgate safety meeting and briefs participants on sampling protocol. Center background is Jim Brooks, TU Contractor, to left is William Wild Bill Zinger, Truchas Chapter.

6 TU volunteers and NMDGF biologist electrofishing lower Willow Creek. NMDGF biologist Jake Miller weighing a Gila trout while Arnold Atkins and Wild Bill, Truchas Chapter volunteers, assist.

7 Adult Gila trout collected by crew just upstream from fish migration barrier under construction. In front of NMDGF cabin where effort was based.

8 Jeff Arterburn, Gila/Rio Grande Chapter President and Tyler Wallin, NMSU Graduate Student, with large Gila trout on upper Willow Creek. Young of the year Gila trout from upper Willow Creek.

9 Gila trout waiting their turns for measurements and release. Kids look on from Ben Lilly Campground as crew of (left to right) Meredith Campbell (NMSU Graduate Student), Jill Wick (NMDGF Gila Trout Biologist), and Art Vollmer (Truchas Chapter and NM Council) show them a Gila trout from Willow Creek.

10 Jill and Art with an exceptionally large Gila trout. Jason Amaro, NM Sportsman Conservation Coordinator for TU, with a Gila trout collected from the middle reach of Willow Creek.

11 Dinner in front of the NMDGF cabin and where discussions around the campfire took place. Lanscape-scale impacts of the Whitewater-Baldy Wildfire as you leave Willow Creek.

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