Daily Rules, Proposed Rules, and Notices of the Federal Government
Section 4(b)(3)(B) of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1531
On October 23, 2000, we received a petition dated October 13, 2000, from Trout Unlimited, requesting that the California golden trout be listed on an emergency basis as endangered under the Act, and that critical habitat be designated. Included in the petition was supporting information on the subspecies' taxonomy, distribution, and ecology, as well as information regarding factors considered by the petitioners to threaten the subspecies. We acknowledged receipt of the petition in a letter to Trout Unlimited, dated November 7, 2000. In that letter, we also stated that we would be unable to address the petition until fiscal year 2002 or later due to court orders and judicially approved settlement agreements for listing and critical habitat determinations under the Act, which required nearly all of our listing and critical habitat funding for fiscal year 2001. The petitioner filed a complaint in Federal District Court on November 29, 2001, resulting in a ruling on June 21, 2002, ordering us to complete the 90-day finding by September 19, 2002. We completed the finding by the requisite date, and published it in the
The California golden trout (
The taxonomy of golden trout in the Kern River basin has been revised several times. Originally, four species of trout were described:
California golden trout are well known for their bright coloration, red to red-orange belly and cheeks, bright gold lower sides, a central lateral band that is red-orange, and a deep olive-green back (Moyle 2002, p. 283). Typically, 10 parr marks (oval colorations) are present along the lateral line on both young fish and adults, but may be lost in older fish under some conditions (Behnke 2002, p. 106). The pectoral, pelvic, and anal fins are orange with a white to yellow tip preceded by a black band; dorsal fins may also have a white to yellow tip (Moyle 2002, p. 283). Body spotting is highly variable, but spots are usually scattered across the dorsal surface with a few below the lateral line (Moyle 2002, p. 283). California golden trout from Golden Trout Creek have few spots on the body, primarily concentrated on and near the caudal peduncle (the muscle before the tail fin), whereas California golden trout in the South Fork Kern River typically have small dark spots present over most of the length of the body above the lateral line, although a few spots can be found below the lateral line (Fisk 1983, p.1; Stephens 2001a, p. 4). Golden trout are rainbow trout, so the basic rainbow trout characteristics apply to the subspecies (Moyle 2002, p. 283); however, golden trout have the lowest number of vertebrae (59 to 60) and pyloric caeca (finger-like projections of the intestine (30 to 32)), and the highest number of scales along the lateral line (170 to 200) of any rainbow trout (Behnke 2002, p. 106). California golden trout in streams can obtain lengths of 19 to 20 centimeters (cm) (7.5 to 7.9 inches (in)) (Knapp and Dudley 1990, p. 168). California golden trout remain geographically isolated from Little Kern golden trout and Kern River rainbow trout, but historical planting of nonnative hatchery trout (
California golden trout also present behavioral and life-history characters that help distinguish them from other subspecies of rainbow trout (see also discussion under the Habitat and Life History section below). These include smaller home ranges (Matthews 1996a, p. 84; Matthews 1996b, p. 587), remaining active during both day and night (Matthews 1996a, pp. 82, 84-85), a relatively long lifespan (Knapp and Dudley 1990, p. 169), and the construction of redds (depressions in the substrate for eggs) using relatively small-grained substrate (Knapp and Vredenburg 1996, pp. 528, 529).
For purposes of this finding, we have considered California golden trout to be those trout within the native range of the subspecies (see Distribution section below) that present the morphological and behavioral characters listed above. We do not rely on genetic tests indicating levels of genetic introgression (infiltration of genes from one species into the gene pool of another species through repeated backcrossing of a hybrid with one of its parent species) with nonnative trout (see Factor E—Hybridization section below) to determine what constitutes a member of the subspecies because the most recent genetic analysis of introgression in California golden trout populations specifically cautioned against the use of strict cutoffs of introgression levels in determining management categories based on any single genetic test (Stephens 2007, p. 55). According to this study, the algorithm used by one genetic test may result in an estimation of low levels of introgression where none actually exist, essentially not allowing for an unambiguous determination between low levels of introgression and genetically “pure” populations (Stephens 2007, p. 56). This caution against using single methods for determining cutoffs was due in part to considerable differences in introgression estimates for certain populations of California golden trout, which were generated by the different methodologies and assumptions of the various genetic tests that have been used to test those populations (Stephens 2007, p. 72), as well as to the general need for an adequate understanding of the variance surrounding introgression estimates (Stephens 2007, p. 57). However, while we do not rely on genetic tests of introgression levels to distinguish California golden trout populations from nonnative trout, we do consider such genetic information useful for evaluating the effectiveness of measures taken to prevent further introgression.
Hybridization between California golden trout and nonnative rainbow trout is sometimes displayed by an increased number and location of body spots, especially below the lateral line, and a more rainbow trout-like body coloration; however, not all hybrid trout display rainbow trout characteristics (CDFG
The historical range of the California golden trout included only the South Fork Kern River and Golden Trout Creek in the upper Kern River basin. Golden Trout Creek and upper portions of the South Fork Kern River were once part of the same stream, which became separated by volcanic activity in the region approximately 10,000 years ago (Cordes
The Golden Trout Creek watershed is 155 square kilometers (km
The South Fork Kern River watershed covers 1,380 km
California golden trout have been widely transplanted outside of their historical range, but the history of these transplants is poorly documented. Most of these transplanted fish came from hybridized Cottonwood Lakes stock that was derived from Golden Trout Creek (Stephens 2007, pp. 54, 55). Fish were transplanted into fishless lakes and streams within the Golden Trout Creek watershed, the South Fork Kern River watershed, and other areas throughout the Sierra Nevada (such as adjacent to the Kern Plateau, including Ninemile Creek, Cold Creek, Salmon Creek, many of the lakes and streams to the north in Sequoia National Park, and all tributaries to the Kern River). In California, planting records and historical documents indicate that California golden trout have been stocked in Alpine, El Dorado, Nevada, Placer, Sierra, Fresno, Inyo, Madera, Mono, Siskiyou, Trinity, Tulare, and Tuolumne Counties (Fisk 1983, p. 11). Outside of California, golden trout were sent to England, Colorado, Utah, Montana, New York, and Wyoming between 1928 and 1937 (McCloud 1943, p. 194).
For the purposes of this finding, we are analyzing a petitioned entity that includes populations of California golden trout considered native to the South Fork Kern River and Golden Trout Creek in the upper Kern River basin. We do not consider introduced populations present elsewhere as part of the listable entity because we do not consider them to be native populations. Neither the Act nor our implementing regulations expressly address whether introduced populations should be considered part of an entity being evaluated for listing, and no Service policy addresses the issue. Consequently, in our evaluation of whether or not to include introduced populations in the potential listable entity we considered the following:
(1) Our interpretation of the intent of the Act with respect to the disposition of native populations;
(2) A policy used by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to evaluate whether hatchery-origin populations warrant inclusion in the listable entity; and
(3) A set of guidelines from another organization (International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)) with specific criteria for evaluating the conservation contribution of introduced populations.
Our interpretation is that the Act is intended to preserve native populations in their ecosystems. While hatchery or introduced populations of fishes may have some conservation value, this does not appear to be the case with introduced populations of California golden trout in California and elsewhere in the United States. These introduced populations were apparently established to support recreational fisheries without any formal genetic consideration to selecting and mating broodstock (group of mature fish kept for breeding purposes), and are not part of any conservation program to benefit the native populations. Consequently, we do not consider the introduced populations of California golden trout in California, England, Colorado, Utah, Montana, New York, and Wyoming to be part of the listable entity.
California golden trout reach sexual maturity when they are 3 to 4 years old and begin spawning during the spring or early summer when maximum water temperatures consistently exceed 15 to 18 degrees Celsius (°C) (59 to 64 degrees Fahrenheit (°F)) and average stream water temperatures exceed 7 to 10 °C (45 to 50 °F) (Stefferud 1993, pp. 139-140; Knapp and Vredenburg 1996, p. 528). Spawning begins with female California golden trout moving fine gravel substrate to construct a shallow depression, known as a redd, to lay their eggs. Although California golden trout can construct redds using gravel of smaller average diameter than other trout species or subspecies, they still select the largest substrates available (Knapp and Vredenburg 1996, pp. 528, 529).
Growth of California golden trout shows a negative correlation with fish density and a positive correlation with several factors, including the stability of the stream bed and banks, and the presence of aquatic and streamside vegetation (Knapp and Dudley 1990, pp. 165, 170, 171). Aquatic vegetation provides habitat for small invertebrates preyed on by the trout, while overhanging streamside vegetation provides habitat for terrestrial invertebrates that can serve as a food source when they fall in the water (Knapp and Dudley 1990, p. 170; Moyle 2002, p. 285). Streamside vegetation also tends to stabilize banks and to provide cover for young trout from potential predators such as birds (Moyle 2002, p. 277). Overhanging vegetation, steep or undercut banks, and deeper streambeds are all needed by trout (Moyle 2002, p. 286), in part because they provide shade and cooler water during the day. Average daily water temperatures can fluctuate from 2 to 22 °C (Knapp and Dudley 1990, p. 163), while optimal temperatures for trout range from 15 to 18 °C (59 to 64 °F) (Moyle 2002, p. 276). Deeper streambeds and steeper banks are associated with greater stream stablity, thus helping to explain the positive correlation between stream stability and trout growth found by Knapp and Dudley (1990, pp. 165, 171). Stream stability is also likely important because erosion of unstable streams produces higher sediment loads that can cover redds and interfere with feeding by clouding the water (Moyle 2002, p. 278).
California golden trout have been known to live as long as 9 years, and commonly reach 6 to 7 years old (Knapp and Dudley 1990, p. 169). This long lifespan is likely due to a short growing season, high fish densities, and a low food abundance, all of which promote slow growth rates and old ages of trout (Knapp and Dudley 1990, p. 169).
California golden trout adapted to the South Fork Kern River and Golden Trout Creek in the absence of competitors, although they probably did coexist with Sacramento suckers (
California golden trout home ranges were calculated as the linear distance that encompasses 90 percent of trout locations, based on movements recorded using radio-telemetry during the months of July and September (Matthews 1996a, p. 84; Matthews 1996b, p. 587). California golden trout were found to have small home ranges that average 5 m (16 ft) (Matthews 1996a, p. 84; Matthews 1996b, p. 587). Movements of 26 to 100 m (86 to 328 ft) were observed, but these constituted less than 1 percent of all observations (Matthews 1996b, p. 587).
Since publication of the 90-day finding in 2002 (67 FR 59241; September 20, 2002), the California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG), the Forest Service, and the Service (hereafter referred to collectively as the Agencies) completed a revised
(1) Protect and restore California golden trout genetic integrity and distribution within its native range;
(2) Improve riparian and instream habitat for the restoration of California golden trout populations; and
(3) Expand educational efforts regarding California golden trout restoration and protection.
The Agencies' intent has been to encourage ongoing nongovernmental stakeholder coordination and consultation throughout the implementation phase of the Conservation Strategy. The Conservation Strategy is based on adaptive management, with tasks being removed, added, or adjusted annually as new information becomes available. The Agencies, through the MOA, agreed to formally implement and collaborate on the Conservation Strategy and make any necessary adaptive management changes as the primary mechanism for the conservation of the California golden trout. Implementation of many tasks described in the Conservation Strategy began while it was under development, and have continued since its finalization. Those tasks and other conservation efforts implemented in prior years are summarized below throughout the five-factor analysis.
Section 4 of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1533) and implementing regulations (50 CFR 424) set forth procedures for adding species to, removing species from, or reclassifying species on the Federal Lists of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants. The Act treats subspecies such as the California golden trout as species for these purposes (16 U.S.C. 1532(16)). Under section 4(a)(1) of the Act, a species may be determined to be endangered or threatened based on any of the following five factors:
(A) The present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of its habitat or range;
(B) Overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes;
(C) Disease or predation;
(D) The inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; or
(E) Other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued existence.
In considering what factors might constitute threats, we must look beyond the mere exposure of the species to the factor to determine whether the species responds to the factor in a way that causes actual impacts to the species. If there is exposure to a factor, but no response, or only a positive response, that factor is not a threat. If there is exposure and the species responds negatively, the factor may be a threat and we then attempt to determine how significant a threat it is. If the threat is significant, it may drive or contribute to the risk of extinction of the species such that the species warrants listing as threatened or endangered as those terms are defined by the Act. This does not necessarily require empirical proof of a threat. The combination of exposure and some corroborating evidence of how the species is likely impacted could suffice. The mere identification of factors that could impact a species negatively is not sufficient to compel a finding that listing is appropriate; we require evidence that these factors are operative threats that act on the species to the point that the species meets the definition of threatened or endangered under the Act.
In making this finding, information pertaining to the California golden trout in relation to the five factors in section 4(a)(1) of the Act is discussed below. In making our 12-month finding on the petition, we considered and evaluated the best available scientific and commercial information. We reviewed the petition, information available in our files, and other available published and unpublished information.
The petition and our subsequent investigations have identified several habitat-related activities relevant to the conservation status of California golden trout, including: Livestock grazing management, pack stock use, recreation, artificial fish barriers, and beavers. We address each activity below.
The combined effect of current livestock grazing activities in the Golden Trout Wilderness and legacy conditions from historically excessive grazing use have the potential to impact habitat and the range of the California golden trout. The following subsections discuss the effects of excessive historical grazing, current grazing management practices, and habitat restoration and monitoring efforts within the basins in which the native stream habitat of the California golden trout occurs.
Grazing of livestock in Sierra Nevada meadows and riparian areas began in the mid-1700s with the European settlement of California (Menke
Livestock can contribute to the destabilization of stream banks by
Livestock grazing can cause a nutrient loading problem due to urination and defecation in or near the water, and elevate bacteria levels in areas where cattle are concentrated near water (Meehan and Platts 1978, p. 276; Stephenson and Street 1978, p. 152; Kauffman and Krueger 1984, p. 432). The nutrient status of streams can create a cause and effect relationship between nutrient levels, bacterial growth, and insect mortality (Lemly 1998, p. 234). Growth of filamentous bacteria on the bodies and gills of aquatic insects was demonstrated to be an effect of nutrient loading in livestock-use pastures, significantly lowering the density of insect occurrences at downstream sites (Lemly 1998, pp. 234-235). Aquatic insects suffered extensive mortality because of this bacterial growth in laboratory and field studies, indicating that elevated bacteria levels can negatively influence stream insect populations (Lemly 1998, pp. 234-235, 237), which can result in detrimental effects to prey species important to fish.
Several studies have documented the environmentally detrimental impacts of historical grazing practices in areas within the range of the California golden trout. Albert (1982, pp. 29-47) studied factors influencing the riparian condition of streams in the Golden Trout Wilderness and adjoining watersheds in Sequoia National Park. Her results showed that stream zones in the South Fork Kern River and Golden Trout Creek were less stable, had more livestock damage, and were generally in poorer condition than those in Sequoia National Park, which had not been grazed for the preceding 50 years. Stream reaches with light cattle use had channel bottoms that were more stable (less subject to erosional and depositional changes) than heavily used reaches (Albert 1982, pp. 48-51).
Matthews (1996b, pp. 579-589) used radio transmitters to determine habitat selection and movement patterns of California golden trout in two stream reaches with different levels of habitat recovery on Mulkey Creek. The study areas were differentiated by high and low coverage of
Knapp and Matthews (1996, pp. 816-817) examined the effects of excessive livestock grazing on California golden trout and their habitat inside and outside of grazing exclosures in the South Fork Kern River watershed. In the 2-year study, most physical parameters of the stream channels showed large differences between grazed and ungrazed sites, with ungrazed sites displaying greater canopy shading, stream depth, bank-full height, and narrower stream width. Densities and biomass of California golden trout per unit area were significantly higher in ungrazed versus grazed areas in three out of four comparisons, but differences were less consistent when density and biomass were calculated using stream length. Other findings of this study indicate a significant decrease in stream width in the upper Ramshaw Meadows exclosure between 1984 and 1993, and a greater number of willow plants inside exclosures than outside.
Not all studies found differences in grazed and ungrazed areas. Sarr (1995, pp. 97, 104) did not find significant differences in stream morphology in his study between grazed and ungrazed reaches on the South Fork Kern River. In a movement and habitat use study, California golden trout were monitored with radio transmitters inside and outside of grazing exclosures on the South Fork Kern River (Matthews 1996a, pp. 78-85). No differences in distance moved or home range were found between California golden trout inside and outside exclosures, and most fish were found within 5 m (16.4 ft) of their previously recorded location.
Many grazing impacts to the Kern Plateau were originally caused by unmanaged grazing practices dating back to the late 1800s, during which tens of thousands of cattle were grazed over long periods of time (CDFG
Within the Sequoia National Forest from 2001 to 2004, two of the three available grazing allotments had little or no grazing, while the third utilized up to 65 percent of the total livestock permitted (CDFG
In 1995, Amendment 6 to the Inyo National Forest LRMP was developed to establish forest-wide grazing utilization standards, which are requirements in addition to existing utilization standards contained in grazing permits (USFS 1995, pp. 13, 14). The forest-wide standards were designed, in part, to improve the existing condition of streams supporting California golden trout in grazed watersheds (USFS 1995, pp. 27, 28). The Amendment allows Forest Service personnel to tailor grazing utilization standards to maintain or improve hydrologic and meadow conditions. Grazing utilization standards establish an upper limit of forage that grazing cattle may consume before being moved to a new area (Sims 2011b, p. 1). Inyo National Forest personnel conduct annual monitoring of representative meadows to determine whether utilization standards have been exceeded. If they do find that standards have been exceeded they adjust the standards downwards in following years to allow recovery. The utilization standards themselves are reassessed every 5 to 10 years to ensure that they avoid habitat degradation (including the degradation of stream habitat) (Sims 2011b, p. 1).
The Inyo National Forest LRMP also restricts trampling of streambanks to 10 percent of the streambank length along State trout waters (which include most of the streams supporting California golden trout), and to 20 percent along other waters (USFS 1988a, pp. 78-79). As with utilization standards, annual monitoring of representative streambanks helps assure these standards are not exceeded, and allows grazing prescriptions to be adjusted to promote recovery of the streambanks if the standards are exceeded (Sims 2011b, p. 1). Additionally, salt provided for cattle must be located at least 0.25 mi (0.4 km) away from riparian areas, and additional requirements may apply to specific management areas with unique characteristics. For example, range management direction for the Golden Trout Management Area (#19) amends grazing allotment plans to include necessary mitigation measures and corrective actions if grazing is significantly impacting fish habitat (USFS 1988a, p. 236).
On the Sequoia National Forest, LRMP grazing standards and guidelines applicable to all streams within the habitat of the California golden trout were amended in 2004 (subsequent to the October 13, 2000, petition to list the California golden trout) by the adoption of the Sierra Nevada Forest Plan Amendment (SNFPA) (CDFG
(1) Prevent disturbance to meadow-associated streambanks and natural lake and pond shorelines caused by resource activities from exceeding 20 percent of stream reach or 20 percent of natural lake and pond shorelines.
(2) Limit livestock utilization of grass and grass-like plants to a maximum consumption of 30 percent of each plant by volume (or minimum 6 in (15 cm) stubble height) for meadows in early seral status; limit livestock utilization of grass and grass-like plants to a maximum consumption of 40 percent of each plant by volume (or minimum of 4 in (10 cm) stubble height for meadows in late seral status).
(3) Determine ecological status on all key areas monitored for grazing utilization prior to establishing utilization levels.
(4) Limit browsing to no more than 20 percent of the annual leader growth of mature riparian shrubs and no more than 20 percent of individual seedlings (CDFG
The Inyo National Forest has installed several exclosures in riparian areas within the range of the California golden trout to protect and restore portions of the South Fork Kern River, Mulkey Creek, Ninemile Creek, and Golden Trout Creek from grazing impacts (see also Historical Effects of Excessive Grazing section above). Livestock exclosures totaling several miles exist on numerous stream reaches in all four grazing allotments within Inyo National Forest. Exclosures in the Monache and Mulkey allotments, where grazing is currently allowed, are currently excluding cattle from areas where they would otherwise be grazing. Exclosures in the Whitney and Templeton allotments, which are currently being rested from grazing, will only begin to actively exclude cattle if and when grazing is resumed on those allotments.
Research by Knapp and Matthews (1996, pp. 816-817) in Mulkey and Ramshaw Meadows showed that areas within exclosures display greater canopy shading, stream depth, bankful height, and narrower stream width. Studies by Odion
In addition to monitoring and cattle exclusion efforts, Inyo National Forest has completed numerous projects to stabilize soil and prevent erosion (USFS 2005
Conservation activities that have been conducted for the benefit of the California golden trout are described in the report titled, “Watershed Restoration and Monitoring Accomplishments on the Kern Plateau” (Kern Plateau Report) (USFS 2005
The Conservation Strategy also includes monitoring of the effectiveness of best management practices (BMPs) to determine their effectiveness in protecting California golden trout habitat, with an annual report completed for inclusion in the annual accomplishment reports (CDFG
In summary, historical excessive grazing practices have affected the stream habitat in nearly the entire native range of the California golden trout. Habitat degradation has been addressed in recent decades with numerous conservation efforts, such as reducing the season of use and number of cattle allowed to graze on an allotment, implementing grazing standards and guidelines in the LRMPs, resting of grazing allotments, implementing watershed monitoring, and completing restoration projects. Monitoring of Golden Trout Creek and upper South Fork Kern watersheds has found that implementing these conservation efforts has improved meadow and streambank conditions for three of four grazing allotments, and has stabilized conditions in the fourth grazing allotment (Ettema and Sims 2010, p. 63; Weixelman 2011, p. 12). Based on our evaluation of current practices and of recent and ongoing restoration activities, we do not consider livestock grazing to present a significant threat to the California golden trout now or into the future.
Similar to cattle, horses and mules may significantly overgraze, trample, or pollute streamside habitat if too many are concentrated in riparian areas too often or for too long. Commercial pack stock trips are permitted in national forests within the Sierra Nevada, providing transport services into wilderness areas with the use of horses or mules. Use of pack stock in the Sierra Nevada increased after World War II as road access, leisure time, and disposable income increased (Menke
Currently, pack stock use within Golden Trout and South Sierra Wilderness Areas overlaps with historical and current livestock grazing locations, thus making it difficult to identify impacts to vegetation that are due specifically to pack stock use (USFS 2006b, p. 3-13). Monitoring of pack stock grazing impacts on meadows within the California golden trout's range shows a general trend of decreasing impacts to stream bank stability. This trend is believed to be due to restoration efforts and the cancellation of cattle grazing permits (USFS 2006b, p. 3-12).
Allowable pack stock uses are limited in the Inyo National Forest by the same restrictions discussed above for cattle, such as the Amendment 6 forest-wide grazing utilization standards and the 10 percent limit to bank trampling along State trout waters (USFS 200b, p. 3-353). Pack stock grazing is also prohibited in specific meadows, including Volcano Meadow, South Fork Meadow (at the headwaters of the South Fork of the Kern River), and parts of Ramshaw Meadow. As discussed above, these restrictions have resulted in improved conditions for the majority of monitored habitat for which we have monitoring results, and stabilized conditions for the remainder of that habitat (Ettema and Sims 2010, p. 63; Weixelman 2011, p. 12). Accordingly, we consider current habitat management practices sufficient to prevent pack stock use from posing a significant threat to the California golden trout.
Recreational activities that include hiking, camping, and off-road vehicle (ORV) use take place throughout the Sierra Nevada and can have impacts on fish and wildlife and their habitats (impacts from fishing are discussed below under Factor B—
Recreation is the fastest growing use of national forests (USFS 2001b, p. 453). Because of an increasing demand for wilderness recreational experiences,
All of the current range of the California golden trout, with the exception of the Monache Meadow and Kennedy Meadow areas, is encompassed within the federally designated Golden Trout, South Sierra, and Domeland Wilderness areas, where access is difficult and impacts from recreation are lower than in easily accessible areas. Recreational use currently is low and well-dispersed in these areas. The Forest Service monitors wilderness use levels and limits wilderness use if recreation levels are determined to be high (Sims 2006a, p. 1). Recreational impacts are ameliorated by the implementation of various management actions, such as camping restrictions, wilderness ranger presence, and permit requirements. Camping within the Golden Trout Wilderness is not allowed within 100 ft (30 m) of lakes or streams, and a permit is required by the Sequoia National Forest for overnight use. These measures minimize impacts to the fish's habitat. Additionally, Federal designation of an area as Wilderness prohibits the use of motorized or mechanized equipment by the public, with limited exceptions, and therefore provides protection from ORV impacts within these areas.
On National Forest lands outside of federally designated wilderness areas, California golden trout stream habitat occurs in high-use areas, such as Monache and Kennedy Meadows. In these areas, recreational impacts are occurring and are expected to continue. Recreational use occurs primarily on the South Fork Kern River through Monache Meadows on the Inyo National Forest and Kennedy Meadows on the Sequoia National Forest. Motorized access in Monache Meadows is restricted to use of a single 4-wheel-drive road that enters to the south of the meadow. Camping, fishing, and hunting are the primary uses, as well as access for pack stock (CDFG
Although recreational impacts are expected to continue, they are localized to a few areas within the native range of the California golden trout. In addition, the Forest Service and CDFG have implemented measures identified in the Conservation Strategy to offset recreational impacts to the subspecies. Restoration and stabilization projects were implemented adjacent to and within the Monache Allotment in 2004 to address ORV impacts to the meadow habitat in the South Fork Kern River drainage. A brochure for recreational users was produced in 2005 and 2006 that informed the public about fishing and requested help with restoration projects aimed at protecting the California golden trout; it is available for recreational users at area ranger stations, visitor centers, and local flyfishing shops. Information regarding volunteer field activities, opportunities for public involvement, subspecies information, and agency contacts is also posted on the California Trout and Trout Unlimited web pages. Through these volunteer field activities, Trout Unlimited, California Trout, and the Federation of Flyfishers have assisted CDFG and the Forest Service to protect and restore California golden trout and their habitat.
In summary, recreational activities have the potential to negatively impact the habitat and range of the California golden trout through trampling and vegetation loss due to use by pack stock, humans, and ORVs. We believe that some adverse effects to the California golden trout from recreation at high-use areas outside of federally designated Wilderness Areas will continue; however, these effects are expected to remain localized and not rise to a level that would significantly affect the subspecies as a whole. We conclude that current wilderness land management standards afford considerable protection from a variety of potential recreational impacts to habitat of the California golden trout in wilderness. Implementation of management activities by the Forest Service and CDFG have offset recreational impacts to California golden trout habitat in several high-use recreational areas outside of designated wilderness. Activities such as public outreach and stakeholder involvement have been, and continue to be, conducted to help limit potential recreational impacts over the native range of the California golden trout. Consequently, we conclude that habitat loss due to recreational activity does not currently present a significant threat to the California golden trout, and we do not expect it to become a significant threat in the future.
Three barriers have been constructed on the South Fork Kern River to prevent upstream migration of nonnative trout species, and thereby to reduce their introgression and competition with California golden trout. Between 1970 and 1973, the Ramshaw Barrier was constructed in a gorge at the upper end of Ramshaw Meadows; it is located farthest upstream from the other barriers on the South Fork Kern River. In 1973, the Templeton Barrier was constructed of rock, chain-link fencing, and filter fabric at the head of Templeton Gorge, located approximately 11.3 km (7 mi) downstream of the Ramshaw Barrier at the eastern end of Templeton Meadows. In 1980, Templeton Barrier was replaced with a rock-filled gabion structure across the river that resembled a small dam. In 1981, the Schaeffer Barrier was constructed 11.3 km (7 mi) downstream from the Templeton Barrier at the upper end of Monache Meadows.
Although the Ramshaw Barrier has been impassable to fish since 1973, both the Templeton and Schaeffer barriers were determined in 1994 to be on the verge of collapse (Stephens 2001a, p. 33; CDFG
The construction of these fish barriers and subsequent modifications likely have had some negative effect on California golden trout by altering their stream habitat. Dams, water diversions, and their associated structures can alter the natural flow regime both upstream and downstream of dams. However, because the barriers have been constructed to prevent passage of nonnative fish and to protect the California golden trout rather than to impound water, we expect that their effect on stream conditions and hydrology are limited to localized areas where the barriers are placed. The barriers have the potential to fragment
In summary, the three artificial fish barriers that have been placed on the South Fork Kern River are expected to have localized effects to the stream habitat of the California golden trout, and are also expected to benefit the subspecies in the future by allowing restoration of natural predator and prey relationships within the habitat. We conclude that the barriers do not constitute a significant threat to California golden trout at this time or in the future.
There is debate over whether beavers are native to the Kern River basin (Townsend 1979, pp.16-20; CDFG
Currently, large beaver populations occur in upper and lower Ramshaw Meadows. Additional populations of unknown size also exist at other locations within the Kern River Plateau (CDFG
California golden trout stream habitat has historically been adversely affected by livestock grazing and, to a lesser degree, pack stock use, recreational activities, and artificial fish barriers. Conservation efforts rela