Colorado’s beloved greenback cutthroat trout has had a trying existence over the last century. In 1937 the fish was thought to be extinct until small populations were discovered and protected in the early 1950s. In 1978 the native trout’s status was downgraded from endangered to threatened as reintroduction efforts continued. Fast forward to 2012; new genetic research has been published that exposes the true plight of our state fish. According to Colorado Parks and Wildlife, genetically pure greenback cutthroat trout exist in only one small stream in the wild. There are no more than 750 greenback cutthroat trout alive in the wild today.
This tiny population resides in Bear Creek at the foot of Pike’s Peak, west of Colorado Springs. Bear Creek itself is an especially volatile environment for the cutthroats because of the erosive soil type that makes up its bed. The loose gravel and dirt easily washes into the creek killing the aquatic life that these fish rely on for food. Warm, windy, summer days only make the situation worse as even a small wildfire could completely destroy the vegetation, which is the only thing keeping the soil out of the creek bed right now.
One of the more complicated challenges facing the greenback cutthroat is that the size of the population is so small that they face a high risk of poor genetic diversity. There are just too few mature reproducing adult fish. Poor genetic diversity will inhibit the cutthroat’s ability to adapt to their changing environments in the future, and could cause them to be lost forever.
Luckily, someone is trying to do something to protect the existence of these special fish. They call themselves The Greenbacks and they have teamed up with Colorado Trout Unlimited to start the 1 of 750 campaign. The goal is not only educate people about the problem, but to try to fix it. It is one thing to talk about fixing a problem, but it is another to actually develop a plan. The Greenbacks have a plan.
"We are raising funds for:
Restoring and maintaining the access road next to Bear Creek to prevent further erosion from entering the stream and damaging the habitat for its resident greenback cutthroats.
Proliferation of greenbacks through supporting stocking programs and the gear required for our volunteers to successfully pack fish into remote areas.
Seed money to leverage larger grants for in-stream restoration projects"
The best way for you and I to help these good Samaritans is to visit and donate to their Indiegogo project page. They are trying to raise $10,000 by January 2014 to begin the long process of saving Colorado’s greenback cutthroat trout. They have aligned themselves with a handful of great sponsors like Fishpond, Vedavoo, and Tenkara USA, who are providing donation prizes and gear to the volunteers.
Make sure to visit 1of750.com or go straight to the Indiegogo project page for more information or to donate. The future of our state fish is hanging on a small thread, and if everyone who fishes here and enjoys this sport would lend them a hand, we might just fix this.
Andy “Otter” Smith, Guide and Content Writer