Fish Habitat Conservation
Few resource agencies conduct fish habitat restoration and enhancement on the same scale as the BLM. Since 2000, the BLM and its partners have improved and average of 250 miles of stream and 2,600 acres of lake and reservoir habitat each year. The BLM annually conducts maintenance on about 300 fish habitat projects.
Fish Passage Improvement
Fish movement is vitally important to many species. Anadromous and other native fishes must be able to move to traditional spawning areas and/or seasonal micro-habitats to complete critical life-cycle requirements such as reproduction and overwintering. In addition, fish movement helps maintain adequate gene flow within and among populations.
As part of the BLM’s efforts to improve fish habitat, the Fisheries Program is addressing fish passage problems that occur at stream culverts associated with the 78,000 miles of roads on BLM-managed lands. The agency also works to eliminate passage problems at water diversions, channel head-cuts, and low water stream crossings.
The BLM’s Fisheries Program is working with its State, Federal, and private partners, focusing its efforts on high priority species throughout the West. This work includes identifying problematic sites through inventories, designing solutions to fix impediments, constructing new crossings on priority sites, researching the effectiveness of “fish friendly” culvert designs, and maintaining and monitoring projects using adaptive management.
The BLM Fisheries Program works cooperatively with the national Federal Fish Passage Steering Committee to maximize all Federal fish passage efforts, and to date, the Program has resulted in numerous culvert assessments and effectively eliminated hundreds of fish passage barriers.
Aquatic Invasive Species
The spread of aquatic invasive species threaten native fish communities, transforming entire food webs and clogging water pipes. The spread of aquatic invasive species, such as the quagga mussel, New Zealand mudsnail, and zebra mussel, is largely due to recreational use (boating, fishing gear, waders, etc.); water development projects (transwatershed diversions); and fire suppression (use of infected water in watersheds not yet infected). The BLM’s Fisheries Program addresses these threats in part by working with counterparts in State and other Federal agencies through the national interagency Aquatic Nuisance Species Task Force and its Western Regional Panel.
Habitat Improvement Case Study: Lake Fork Gunnison River
The Gunnison River in southwestern Colorado contains one of the country's premiere fly-fishing destinations. However, several years ago, whirling disease significantly impacted the rainbow trout population Gunnison Gorge, through which the river flows. Trout Unlimited's local chapter, Gunnison Gorge Anglers, and the Colorado Division of Wildlife have since introduced disease resistant rainbow trout and today, the future looks good for the species.
The BLM manages important habitat for this and other fish species and conducts numerous habitat improvement projects throughout the year. In one example, the BLM’s Gunnison Field Office called in the heavy equipment to enhance habitat for the brown and rainbow trout in the popular Lake Fork Gunnison River. This is a tributary to the Gunnison River. Boulders and rock collected from the surrounding area were placed in the river as pool forming structures to increase holding habitat, slower-moving water used for resting and cover by both juvenile and adult fish. This project also complements ongoing efforts by the BLM to acquire private lands and conservation easements to increase angler access to blue ribbon fisheries streams.
Top photo: Lake Fork Gunnison River - Photo courtesy Colorado Division of Wildlife