Matt Kondratieff and Eric Richer
Wason and La Garita Ranches, Rio Grande River
Human-caused habitat changes and non-native species result in the degradation and pollution of Colorado's streams and rivers. Fortunately, stream restoration efforts show promise as a means to aid species recovery, improve inland water quality and create new areas for wildlife habitat and recreational activities. Over the years, the U.S. has seen billions of dollars poured into stream and river restoration projects. However, very few of these projects actually included monitoring components after the project was completed. Without any form of assessment, researchers cannot determine the overall success and effectiveness of stream and river restoration.
In 2006, the Wason Ranch completed a large-scale habitat improvement project on approximately 3.8 miles of the Rio Grande River. Historic cattle grazing, logging and mining activities had eroded stream banks and degraded instream habitat, leading to a decline in the fishery. Goals for the project included: (1) stabilize eroding stream banks, (2) restore river depths to previous conditions, (3) restore the river channel and adjacent banks to pre-cattle grazing conditions, and (4) reestablish riparian vegetation. The overarching objective of the project was to increase trout density, biomass, and abundance of quality-sized fish (14 inches and larger).
CPW initiated a long-term monitoring project to assess the fishery responses to stream habitat restoration on the Wason Ranch. Researchers are monitoring changes in the quantity and quality of trout, as well as densities of aquatic invertebrates. Research findings will generate useful information for determining the degree of fishery improvement that can be expected from stream restoration projects. Results will also be used to refine future habitat restoration techniques to benefit both trout fisheries and anglers.
Kondratieff, M.C. 2012. Stream Habitat Investigations and Assistance, Job Progress Report. Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Fort Collins, Colorado. 65 pp.
Kondratieff, M.C. and E.E. Richer. 2014. Stream Habitat Investigations and Assistance, Job Progress Report. Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Fort Collins, Colorado. 68 pp.