NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – The Santa Fe National Forest is temporarily closing part of the Willow Creek on the Pecos/Las Vegas Ranger District. This is to allow for work to restore the native Rio Grande cutthroat trout. The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish will be removing nonnative fish along nine miles.
Right now, the cutthroat only occupies 11% of the area where it used to be dominant. The goal is to increase those numbers and ensure the cutthroat don’t have to compete with nonnative fish. The closure will happen from June 14 through June 18 and it will close again from July 19 through July 23. Signs will be posted around Willow Creek to remind the public that it’s closed.
According to a news release from the Forest Service, the biggest threat to the Rio Grande cutthroat is the introduction of nonnative fish species, like brown trout, which compete with the native fish for food. The Forest Service says Game and Fish will use a piscicide, a chemical substance that is poisonous to fish, in Willow Creek to remove the nonnative fish as the first phase of a project.
The Forest Service says the Pecos River basin currently has 12 Rio Grande cutthroat conservation populations, mostly in small headwater streams.
The Forest Services says Game and Fish’s statewide fisheries management plan outlines a strategy to increase the number of secure Rio Grande cutthroat populations and occupied stream miles to improve the conservation status of the species and provide additional opportunities for recreational angling.
The Forest Service says violation of the closure order is a Class B misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not more than $5,000 for individuals and $10,000 for organizations, imprisonment of not more than six months, or both.
Closure map below