Lahontan cutthroat trout has a long evolutionary history in the Great Basin and is highly distinct from other sub-species of cutthroat trout. Historically, it accessed a wide array of stream and river systems as well as freshwater and alkaline lakes. As a result of this diverse habitat, Lahontan cutthroat expressed a variety of life histories, including resident stream, migratory, and lake-dwelling forms.
Today, the Lahontan cutthroat is imperiled by a variety of factors and has been listed as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act since 1975. Only 8.6 percent of its historical stream habitat is currently occupied, and self-sustaining native populations remain in less than 1 percent of its historic lake habitat.
Competition from native fishes, particularly brook trout, lake trout, and rainbow trout, is the primary reason for the decline of the Lahontan cutthroat trout. The majority of remaining populations are in small, isolated stream reaches, making the long-term persistence and viability of these populations unlikely. With increasing threats from non-native species and climate change, the window for implementing a turn-around for this species is narrowing.
The goal of NFWF's Lahontan Cutthroat Trout Conservation Program is to protect existing pure populations from non-native trout, sustain Lahontan cutthroat populations in lakes, connect isolated populations into larger, more climate change resilient populations, and increase Lahontan cutthroat angling opportunities.
Key conservation strategies for this program include:
- Reducing/eradicating non-native fishes
- Reconnecting and expanding populations
- Increasing stream flow
- Improving river, stream and riparian habitat and function
- Managing recreational fishery for native fish
- Implementing genetic and population monitoring.
The Lahontan Cutthroat Trout initiative has funded the opening of 17 miles of stream through fish passage improvement, initiated a genetic monitoring program and constructed three barriers for the restriction of non-native fish.
Applicants should identify how their proposed activities fit within the framework outlined in the Lahontan Cutthroat Trout Business Plan.