Public meeting in Albuquerque on New Mexico fisheries management plan

There will be a public meeting in Albuquerque on New Mexico fisheries management plan on Tuesday, Sept. 29, 6:00 to 7:00 PM.

SANTA FE -The Department of Game and Fish is seeking public comment on the draft of a new fisheries management plan that will help guide the department’s efforts into the future.
The new plan includes management direction for specific waters, primary fish species and project priorities. The last comprehensive, statewide, fisheries management plan was adopted in 1987 and only covered sportfish.
The new draft plan includes sportfish as well native and non-game fish. The draft plan also includes information about hatchery operations, habitat restoration projects, specific watershed areas, angler survey data, fishery management priorities, funding and more.

The plan can be found on the department’s website at http://www.wildlife.state.nm.us/commission/proposals-under-consideration.

The department is also conducting public meetings about the plan:
Albuquerque: 6:00 to 7:00 p.m. Sept. 29, New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, Northwest Area Office, 3841 Midway Place NE, Albuquerque.
Roswell: 6:00 to 7:00 p.m. Sept. 30, New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, Southeast Area Office, 1912 W. Second Street, Roswell.
Las Cruces: 6:00 to 7:00 p.m. Oct. 7, New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, Southwest Area Office, 2715 Northrise Drive, Las Cruces.
Raton: 6:00 to 7:00 p.m. Oct. 8, New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, Northeast Area Office, 215 York Canyon Road, Raton.

Public comments can be sent by email to DGF-StatewideFishPlan@state.nm.us. Please submit comments by October 31, 2015. For further information please contact Kirk Patten, Assistant Chief of Fisheries, at 505-476-8055.

Comment from Ron Loehman, NM Trout Conservation Chairman

The plan is very comprehensive and G&F has done a lot of very good work in evaluating and categorizing the New Mexico watersheds that support fish populations.  In my opinion the plan could be improved if additional waters were designated catch and release, for example the sections of the Chama below El Vado and Abiquiu dams. The wild trout in other streams that are also stocked with triploids could be catch and release while the stocked rainbows could be kept. There are plans for recreational stockings of RG Cutthroats in a number of streams, but I believe that the list should be expanded.

Go to the meeting and let your opinions be heard.

Santa Fe National Forest Travel Rules Now in Effect

Ron Loehman

The Santa Fe National Forest (SFNF) has rolled out a comprehensive Travel Management Plan that makes a lot of changes in the road and trail network in the forest. The process started in 2005 when the USFS adopted a rule that required each National Forest and Grassland in the US to identify and designate the roads, trails, and areas that would be open to motor vehicle use. Once implemented, all motor vehicle use off the designated system would be prohibited. That process is now complete for the SFNF following years of planning, environmental impact analyses, and input from the public in many hearings and public meetings. By contrast with past policy, all roads that are not specifically open to vehicular traffic are closed. Driving on those closed and decommissioned roads is a violation and can result in a citation. This is a significant change considering how many old logging roads, informal off road tracks, and other vehicle trails there are in the forest. Our June 1st project described elsewhere in the newsletter closed off one of these decommissioned informal roads.

314If they are observed by the public and enforced by the USFS, these new regulations will remove a significant source of degradation of Jemez streams. The Rio de las Vacas downstream of the Girl Scout camp is one good example where the road closures should eventually show some improvements in stream quality. Enforcement is always a question for the Forest Service, given their tight budgets and other priorities, such as fighting wildfires. We can help by reporting trespass vehicles to the Forest Service (date, location, type of vehicle, license plate), particularly if they are in riparian areas and are messing with our streams. The Jemez District office number is (575) 829-3535. The SFNF Headquarters number is (505) 438-5300.

The SFNF has published detailed maps of the newly- designated road system. They are available on-line. As stated on the SFNF website, “These maps show which routes (both roads and trails) are open to motor vehicle travel, what type of vehicle they are open to, and what season they are open. The maps are free and are available now. The Motor Vehicle Use Map is the key to understanding each district’s motorized transportation system and can be used in conjunction with the Santa Fe National Forest visitor map. Use the Motor Vehicle Use Map on the Forest to determine what roads are open and how far you are allowed to drive off of the road.”

The Travel Management Rule (the Rule) announced in 2005 requires Forests and Grasslands in the Rocky Mountain Region are seeking public input and coordinating with federal, state, county, and other local governmental entities as well as tribal governments to implement the Rule.

Cebolla Volunteer Project and BBQ Lunch

rioCebolla1Ron Loehman,
Conservation Chairman

June 1st was the date for New Mexico Trout’s annual volunteer project day and BBQ. This year the project location was a spot near where FR 376 passes over the Rio Cebolla in the Jemez District of the Santa Fe National Forest (SFNF). Our task was to build vehicle barriers to help close off an old, informal road that has been eroding and contributing to the degradation of the creek and its surrounding meadow. Earlier, SFNF personnel had built a gate across the old road to allow access only by emergency vehicles. We were there to build barriers on either side of the gate to protect a wet meadow that already showed tire tracks from vehicles driving around the gate.

RioCebolla2  RioCebolla2

About 30 NM Trout members and guests came up for the workday, providing enough volunteers to form three teams. One group used a power auger to dig holes for vertical posts (bollards). Another team repurposed the now redundant buck and pole fence to close off a significant part of the meadow. A third group cleaned up a large number of old campsites and fire rings, as a first step in a SFNF plan to start restoring the area to a more natural condition.

302The group worked hard and by noon everyone was ready to stop for a well-deserved lunch from Rudy’s Barbecue. After lunch, Chantel Cook, SFNF Fisheries Biologist, thanked the NM Trout volunteers for our conservation work over the years. She remarked that the hours we spent working counted as a significant, in-kind contribution that is a condition for their riparian restoration funding.

New Mexico Trout conservation projects have made a significant, cumulative impact on the streams in the Jemez Mountains. As you drive the back roads and fish the Guadalupe, Cebolla, San Antonio, Vacas, and other Jemez streams, you will see evidence of our work over the years. The streams are in better condition because of our efforts. However, drought, higher temperatures, and wildfires are major threats that will require more work from us in the future. The Club sincerely thanks all of you volunteers for your past contributions to our conservation program and asks you to keep up the good work.

303

If You Are Considering Fishing the Rio San Antonio in the Valles Caldera…

by Ron Loehman

Last Saturday, May 11, I assisted Dave Menicucci with an eyeball survey of the fish population in the fourteen-mile stretch of Rio San Antonio in the Valles Caldera. Dave has gotten approval for a study to determine if trout can be relocated to even out the apparent patchy distribution of fish in the San Antonio in the aftermath of the Las Conchas fire. See article below for a fuller description.

We each walked upstream along a seven-mile stretch with a GPS and recorded the fish we saw in each quarter-mile section. I had the lower half, Reaches 4 and 3, and Dave had Reaches 2 and 1. The water was off color with visibility of 8 to 12 inches, a water temperature between 52° and 54°F and a pH of 8.6 in the part I walked. The survey technique certainly undercounted the fish population, but the results say something about relative fish numbers that should be of interest to anyone considering fishing the San Antonio when the Valles Caldera season opens this week.

The fish population in the lower two reaches (4 and 3) was very low, with less than four fish spooked in most quarter mile sections. I saw fewer than ten fish bigger than 6″ in the whole seven-mile stretch. Much of the stream bottom is mud or fine silt, with rare stretches of gravel, implying relatively poor habitat for trout. These results are consistent with fish numbers found in the Valles Caldera part of the San Antonio using more rigorous shocking surveys since the Las Conchas fire.

By contrast, Dave found that the trout numbers increased substantially as he moved up through Reaches 2 and 1, with the numbers peaking in the 40 fish range about the midpoint of Reach 1. He reported seeing significant numbers of fish of 8″ or larger.

Based on Saturday’s results, I’d suggest Reaches 1 and 2 to anyone fishing the San Antonio in the Valles Caldera. The situation may change as the season progresses, but for now, the upper part of the San Antonio seems to have a lot more fish.

Volunteers Needed: Trout Relocation Project on the Valles Caldera

by Dave Menicucci
June 15, 2013

The purpose of the project is to monitor movements of trout after they have been moved from high population areas to lower population areas on the Rio San Antonio (RSA) on the Valles Caldera National Preserve. Volunteers will help with the tagging and reintroduction.  Approximately a dozen people and three vehicles will be needed, along with six 5-gallon buckets.  We need at least four volunteers capable of carrying the trout in half-full buckets (20 lb each) from the stream to the vehicles or from the vehicles to the reintroduction sites, and to run the shocker, which weighs about 35 lbs and is carried on a backpack.  It is a one-day project, probably starting at the staging area Saturday, June 15th around 8am and ending at the staging area at 4pm with a break for lunch.  The project will provide box lunches. We are also soliciting volunteers from Trout Unlimited and Friends of Valles Caldera.

RSVP to Dave Menicucci at dmenicucci1@comcast.net

Reserve the Date: June 1 Volunteer Project and BBQ

Ron Loehman
Conservation Chairman

Plan to join other NM Trout Volunteers on June 1st to build structures that will help the Rio Cebolla recover from the effects of unauthorized vehicles along its banks. The location is about 4 miles north of Porter’s Landing where FR 376 crosses the Cebolla, across the valley from where we installed the interpretive panels last year.

We will be working to close off an informal road along the creek that was decommissioned in the recent Forest Service travel management plan. This is an action that NM Trout has been advocating for over a decade and now we have the chance to help the area recover from heavy overuse. We will install vertical posts (bollards) using a power auger, similar to what we have done elsewhere. Some volunteers may help to remove some of the many informal camps and fire rings that dot that side of the Cebolla.

Lunch will be Rudy’s BBQ and soft drinks provided by the club in appreciation for all that our valued conservation volunteers accomplish.

There is informal camping in the area for those who want to go up early
When: Meet at 9:00 AM, Saturday, June 1
Where: 4 miles from Porter’s Landing, where FR 376 crosses the Rio CebollaB
Bring: work gloves, hat, sunscreen, and a water bottle; wear sturdy shoes
RSVP: to ronloehman@gmail.com by Tuesday, May 28 so we can order sufficient food for lunch

 

Conservation Projects 2013

Rio Guadalupe Cleanup – Saturday, April 20, 2013

New Mexico Trout has a tradition of welcoming the Spring opening of FR 376 between the Gilman Tunnels and Porter’s Landing with a volunteer trash pickup. That Forest Service road provides access to our Rio Guadalupe home water and it accumulates a lot of roadside trash over a season’s heavy use by the many people who visit that corridor. Doing these annual cleanups is one way we can express our thanks for the wonderful trout fishing opportunities the Rio Guadalupe affords while we help maintain it in a state that we like to visit.

105We will meet at 9:00AM at the Forest Service gate above the Gilman Tunnels on Forest Road 376. We will pick up accumulated trash along FR 376 and the Rio Guadalupe between the tunnels and Porter’s Landing seven miles upstream. The Club will provide garbage sacks, but drivers with pickups or SUVs are needed to help haul out the trash. RSVP to ronloehman@gmail.com by 5:00 PM Tuesday, April 16th and we will provide you an excellent stream side lunch.

Rio Cebolla Restoration and Annual Picnic – 1 June 2013

This project has been in the planning for many years, and will finally come to fruition. We will install fencing to restrict access and illegal camping on the Rio Cebolla, and enjoy our annual picnic catered by Rudy’s Barbeque. Block your calendar, and plan on joining us for this event. More details will be published soon.

Restoring the Southwest Jemez Forest and Protecting our Favorite Streams

Ron Loehman,
Conservation Chairman

In July 2010, a collaboration of the Santa Fe National Forest and the Valles Caldera National Preserve, and several Pueblo tribes was awarded a ten-year $40 million Federal project to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire in the Southwest Jemez. The objective is to restore many of the characteristics the forest enjoyed before centuries of overgrazing, logging, and fire suppression produced the landscape we see today of smaller, closely spaced trees that are susceptible to massive crown fires.

After a lot of study, formal environmental assessments, and many public hearings, the collaboration has released its Proposed Action Plan, which is available on the Santa Fe National Forest website http://www.fs.usda.gov/. The project area comprises about 210,000 acres around the middle Jemez river drainage, including all of the Valles Caldera Preserve and it includes many of the streams that New Mexico Trout members know so well.

235A lot of research has shown that before the early 1800’s the southwestern forests were adapted to frequent, small-scale fires that rarely, if ever, reached the calamitous proportions of the Las Conchas fire. (The book, Wildfire, George Wuerthner, ed., Island Press (2006) is a good reference.) The objective of the Action Plan is to get back to that state using a combination of techniques, including mechanical thinning and proscribed burns in the upland areas, and riparian restoration along the streams.

New Mexico Trout members have a big stake in the success of this work. Fire experts have stated that in its present state, it’s not a case of whether the rest of the Jemez will burn, but when. The Las Conchas fire destroyed fish populations in Capulin, Peralta, Frijoles, and San Antonio creeks. Only part of the Rio San Antonio watershed was affected and it seems to be recovering. The others, however, may take a decade before they can again support fish.

Funding for this project is by yearly appropriation of the Federal government.   If you think, as I do, that this is worthwhile, cost-effective, and something the government should support, you can tell that to our senators, Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall.