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Wildlife agencies buy ranchland to preserve critical habitat for threatened Western fish

This is an image of a rangeland with grasses, scrub brush, and a shallow stream. The sky is blue with clouds.
Courtesy of the Nevada Department of Wildlife
The 3,345-acre Disaster Peak Ranch on the Nevada-Oregon border provides critical habitat for the threatened Lahontan cutthroat trout.

Wildlife agencies are purchasing 3,345 acres of ranchland in the Mountain West that serves as a critical habitat for several species, including a threatened Western fish.

Lahontan cutthroat trout once swam in 7,000 miles of streams across Nevada, Oregon and California. Now, they occupy just 10% of those waterways due to dams, non-native fish, and warming waters.

To help restore cold-water habitat for the fish, wildlife agencies helped secure a piece of land straddling Nevada and Oregon called Disaster Peak Ranch. That was spearheaded by the Western Rivers Conservancy, which purchased the ranch. The conservation group owns the ranchland in Oregon and sold the Nevada side to the Nevada Division of State Lands.

Now, the Western Rivers Conservancy is in the process of working with the Nevada Department of Wildlife, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to create a management plan for the property, which has more than 55 miles of streams relied on by Lahontan cutthroat trout, listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act.

Mike Anderson, a flyfishing guide in Northern Nevada, said Lahontan cutthroat are crucial to the region’s fishing economy.

“They've been in our area for tens of thousands of years,” Anderson said. “So it's very important to have these fish sustain and grow and populate for commerce, for sure, but also just for kind of the overall spirit and nature of our area.”

The ranchland being preserved is also home to greater sage-grouse, mule deer, and the Columbia spotted frog.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, KUNC in Colorado and KANW in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Kaleb is an award-winning journalist and KUNR’s Mountain West News Bureau reporter. His reporting covers issues related to the environment, wildlife and water in Nevada and the region.