New Signs for Rio Jemez

After the stream improvements accomplished by NMT on Rio Jemez were vandalized this summer, NMT worked with the Santa Fe National Forest and NM Game and Fish Department to have eight signs installed along the river that help educate the public on the importance of the streamside vegetation and unrestricted river flow in creating and maintaining suitable habitat for trout.

Link to last year’s project.

Rio Chama Catch and Release Regulations Approved

Ron Loehman, Conservation Chairman

The New Mexico Game and Fish Commission (NMG&F) approved catch and release regulations on a portion of the Rio Chama at its November 17, 2016 meeting in Grants. The new regulation, as written by NM Game and Fish Department staff, applies to a three-mile stretch of the Chama that starts 1.3 miles below the El Vado dam. That 1.3-mile part was left out of the proposal because it includes the Coopers El Vado Ranch and areas upstream that are extremely popular with some locals and who were vocal in their desire to continue catch-and-keep fishing on the Chama.

The approval of any catch and release water on the Chama was due in large part to the dedicated, tireless efforts of Noah Parker over several years. Noah owns Land of Enchantment Guides and is a long time supporter of New Mexico Trout. At the Grants meeting the Game and Fish Department staff initially proposed that the Commission delay approval of the Department’s own proposal pending holding more public hearings on the issue. After a number of statements by supporters and lots of discussion among the Commissioners the catch and release proposal seemed to be stalled, with the possibility that the NMG&F Department request for a delay might be approved. Noah asked to address the Commission and delivered an impassioned defense of the catch and release regulations while calling attention to the many hundreds of petitions, letters, and other expressions of support that he had solicited and delivered to the Commission. That seemed to sway the Commissioners and shortly afterwards they voted to approve the new regulation.

Catch and keep regulations will still apply to the area below the El Vado dam that is easily accessible by vehicle. However, anglers willing to walk a moderate distance downstream should have the opportunity for larger, stream-bred trout, similar to the case with the San Juan tailwater below Navajo Dam.

New Mexico Trout has written the NMG&F Department offering to support them in any of their efforts to educate the public about the new regulations or to otherwise implement them.

Link to minutes of NMG&F November meeting.

Photograph of the Rio Chama overlook, clipped from Pinterest.

Colorado River Water Conservation Grants

san-juanThe Upper Colorado River Commission is offering $1.8 million in funding for pilot projects in which users in the upper basin states of Utah, Colorado, Wyoming and New Mexico voluntarily reduce their demand on the Colorado River. Drought is turning the nation’s largest reservoir dry – Lake Mead reached its lowest levels this summer since the 1930s – and Lake Powell is limping along, just a little over half full. The major tributary in New Mexico to the Colorado River and Lake Powell is the San Juan River.

The idea for these pilot projects is to test what works and what won’t work in a drought contingency plan, and what may be the most effective ways to keep water levels at Lake Powell at the elevation necessary to maintain hydropower production.

Robert King, the interstate streams engineer for the Utah Division of Water Resources, said the commission hopes to learn if river system conservation actually sends that water on to Lake Powell.

Pilot program participants will be selected on factors that include implementation schedule, the identified environmental benefits, the cost per acre-foot saved and the demonstration of water savings. Colorado River users interested in participating in the pilot project should submit proposals by November 30.

Press release: Forest Service & Jumping Mouse

SANTA FE, NM – July 25, 2016 – For Immediate Release.

Fire staff help erect fence to protect New Mexico meadow jumping mouse habitat (Photo credit: USDA Forest Service)

Fire staff help erect fence to protect New Mexico meadow jumping mouse habitat (Photo credit: USDA Forest Service)

While Forest Service crews were  constructing a fence to protect critical habitat for the endangered New Mexico meadow jumping mouse, a 10-person team of researchers from Northern Arizona University (NAU) confirmed that the Santa Fe National Forest (SFNF) is home to the species.

Wildlife ecologist and NAU School of Forestry professor Carol Chambers, Ph.D., and her crew surveyed 10 sites in or near suitable habitat for the mouse and confirmed its presence in eight of the 10. Dr. Chambers’ team used Sherman traps, which are box-style traps used for live capture and release, as well as videography and track plates that capture mouse footprints to confirm its presence. The team also conducted detailed habitat assessments, including vegetation and stream and soil characteristics, and collected hair and fecal samples from the mice to conduct an analysis of their diet.

Simultaneously, about 50 SFNF employees, students working on Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) crews and a handful of people representing the permittees on the Cebolla-San Antonio allotment joined forces over three days to construct 2.8 miles of fence in the Road Pasture. The new Road Pasture fence, approved as part of the May 2016 habitat protection project for the mouse, will help keep cattle out of designated critical habitat for the New Mexico meadow jumping mouse.

“While we have obligations under the Endangered Species Act for the conservation of the mouse, we also understand that the ranching tradition runs deep in New Mexico. Our intent is to protect the mouse while continuing to allow grazing on the impacted allotments,” Forest Supervisor Maria T. Garcia said. “We appreciate the help of all our partners, particularly the grazing permittees, for working with us to achieve that multi-use objective.”

Read the full press release.

Jemez Creek Volunteer Project and Small Stream Fishing Clinic – July 23, 2016

WHAT: 
For the past several months the lower Jemez Creek has been the site of a major Forest Service stream restoration project. Old, ineffective stream structures have been replaced, pools and meanders have been constructed, and willows and cottonwoods have been planted along the stream banks. The forest Service has asked us to do some follow-up work on the plantings, primarily to do some deep watering to help them get through this extremely dry period until we (hopefully) get some summer rain.

Cecil Rich, the SF National Forest fisheries biologist, will give us a brief overview of the project as a whole to explain how the different plantings and constructed features will benefit water quality, fishing, and aquatic habitat.

After lunch the Club will conduct a clinic on small stream fly fishing techniques, including:
* selecting appropriate tackle
* flies for Jemez streams
* reading the water
* casting techniques for small water
* being stealthy

This should be particularly of interest to those who are new to fly fishing or who want to sharpen their techniques for fishing typical Jemez streams. More experienced NM Trout members will be available for personal coaching.

LOCATION and TIME:
We will meet at 9:00 AM, Saturday, July 23rd, 2016
at the Spanish Queen Public Use Site on Highway 4 south of Jemez Springs. See the map below.

DETAILS:
Bring gloves, hat, sunscreen, wading boots or hippers for occasional stream crossings, water bottle or canteen (we’ll have a 5 gal water cooler), fly fishing gear for the clinic. We’ll have some 5 gal buckets, but bring one if you have it.

RSVP:
Respond to conservation@newmexicotrout.org by 10:00 PM Tuesday, July 19th and NM Trout will provide you with lunch.

DRIVING DIRECTIONS:
Take I-25 north to Bernalillo, left on Highway 550 to San Ysidro, right on Highway 4 through village of Canon and past the Highway 485 intersection. The Spanish Queen Use Site will be on the left. See the map below. The driving time from the Big I is a little over an hour.

For further information contact New Mexico Trout Conservation Chairman, Ron Loehman.

sfnf-map

Rio Guadalupe Special Trout Waters

Ron Loehman, Conservation Chairman

defaced-signThe 1.3 miles of the Rio Guadalupe from Porter’s Landing to Llano Loco Spring is designated as a Special Trout Water by the NM Game and Fish Department (NMG&FD). These regulations restrict anglers to single barbless hooks on artificial flies or lures and require any fish caught to be released unharmed.

Over the years, the signs posting these regulations have deteriorated or been knocked down so that many anglers seem not to know that they apply to the Guadalupe. Mike Maes (NM Trout Membership Chairman) recently observed this situation, which prompted an offer from us to the NMG&FD to pay for and to install new Special Trout Water signs on the Guadalupe. Within a few days of the inquiry, NMG&F Coldwater Fish Biologist Laurence Dalessandro replied that they had put the Guadalupe on their priority list for new signs and that they would replace them. A few days later he notified us that the signs have been replaced. Now no one fishing the Guadalupe can claim ignorance of the Special Trout Water Regulations.

special-trout-watersMembers who encounter anglers fishing unlawfully might consider advising them of the regulations in a polite, non-threatening way. No one should risk a hostile or confrontational situation, but if handled diplomatically it might be a teachable moment that will lead someone being more thoughtful about their fishing behavior.

Large Scale Gila Diversion Abandoned

gila-riverThe New Mexico Central Arizona Project Entity, or NMCAPE, decided to abandon an estimated billion dollar plan for capturing the river’s water, which entailed diversion of the Gila and storing waters in an off-stream reservoir near Turkey Creek. The NMCAPE directed its engineering contractor to continue studying only those projects that would cost $80-100 million to build, which is the amount of funding New Mexico anticipates receiving from the federal government to develop water from the Gila.

The NMCAEPE also acknowledged that the project will be smaller, and would not be capable of delivering all 14,000 acre feet of water the state has rights to under federal law. A range of other options for diverting Gila waters include storing it in existing infrastructure like Bill Evans Reservoir or storing it underground.

The 2004 Arizona Waters Settlement Act allowed New Mexico to trade with Arizona’s Gila River Indian Community, and gave state officials 10 years to decide if they would meet water demands in Grant, Luna, Hidalgo, and Catron counties through efficiency and conservation or by building a diversion on the Gila River.

In 2014, the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission voted to pursue the diversion alternative. To receive all of the federal funding promised under the 2004 act, the state has until December 2019 to come up with a plan and complete studies required by the National Environmental Policy Act.

June 4 Volunteer Project: Cebolla Restoration

Ron Loehman, Conservation Chairman

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Willow planting on the Cebolla

New Mexico Trout conservation volunteers worked hard and accomplished a lot earlier this month on a series of projects on the Rio Cebolla along Forest Road 376. As is customary, the first work project of the season also featured a barbeque lunch for all the volunteers. Our work was guided by Phyllis Martinez, a ranger with the Jemez District, and Cecil Rich, fisheries biologist with the Santa Fe National Forest.

We had a good turnout, with enough volunteers to tackle three separate tasks. The first task, which was directed by Cecil Rich, was to plant willow cuttings along the stream banks inside the smallest of the Rio Cebolla meadow jumping mouse exclosures. Cecil and forest service staff had collected the cuttings back in March and stored them in Jemez  Creek near the District Office until the work date. The planting technique is to punch a hole with a digging bar near the water’s edge down to wet soil, drop the willow cutting down the hole, and then tamp the soil around the cutting. Willows have a strong tendency to root if the cut surfaces are kept moist and many of the cuttings had already rooted while they were being stored in Jemez Creek. Restrictions on disturbing meadow jumping mouse habitat required the usual willow planting technique to be modified so that volunteers had to remain in the stream as they planted the willows.

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Building vehicle barriers

The second task was located about a mile south of the willow planting in an area along the Cebolla that is very heavily used by campers and that has been seriously degraded by trespass vehicles. Phyllis Martinez wanted our help to extend and reinforce previously placed barriers so that the Forest Service could begin to rehabilitate the denuded and eroding creek banks. John Rose brought his tractor to the work site equipped with a post hole attachment and a front end loader. That tractor was a real force multiplier. John was able to drill post holes for all the available bollards and then he used the front end loader to bring many big boulders to place along the barrier line. We are all grateful to John for bringing the tractor and allowing us to accomplish so much.

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Restoring vegetation

The third task was to close off an informal two track road off FR 376 about a mile north of Porter’s Landing. The road provided access to a big bare campsite on the west bank of the Cebolla that Phyllis Martinez wanted to reseed, rest, and allow the area to recover. Ashes and charcoal from a huge fire ring on the bank had been pushed down into the creek, compounding the damage from the general overuse. Following Phyllis’ instructions, we in the third group drove T-posts and strung a four- wire fence across the entry point to block vehicle access. We also removed the fire ring and bagged up the ashes and charcoal for removal.

We broke at noon for a lunch of barbeque from Rudy’s in Albuquerque. The lunch was tasty and ample and the view down the grassy valley was peaceful and serene. Thanks to all the volunteers for their help.

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Enjoing the Rio Cebolla