Fire Season (field notes from a wilderness lookout)
by Philip Connors
"After the McKnight Fire in 1951, ash runoff killed most of the native trout in this stream, or so it was presumed - no one can say for sure - and later the state Game and Fish Department stocked it with various non-natives, dumping whatever was on hand. Before them the stream was home to the state fish of New Mexico, the Rio Grand cutthroat, now a threatened species reduced to less than 10 percent of its historic range, which once spread across 6,600 miles of mountain streams that funnel their waters to the Rio Grande.
According to scholars, the Rio Grande cutthroat appears in the first written mention of a North American trout by Europeans. In 1541, Pedro de Castaneda de Najera, a member of the Coronado expedition, noted "a little stream which abounds in excellent trout," likely Glorieta Creek, southeast of modern Santa Fe. Over the past 150 years, mining, logging, road building, cattle grazing, fire suppression, and the stocking of non-native species have destroyed the fish in vast reaches of its range. Increasingly isolated populations remain, most of them in northern New Mexico and southern Colorado, cut off from intermingling with their kind in other streams and therefore susceptible to genetic stagnation. Rising water temperatures, as a result of global warming, may also imperil their long-term survival. Government officials have so far denied efforts to list the fish as an endangered species - mainly, the admit, because they don't have the money for a recovery program."
click to listen: Philip Connors NPR interview
ps. I apologize for my absence; I've been battling a summer cold. I will be on blog break until the end of July, but not because I'm sick! Enjoy the late summer nights and rain storms.