To learn more about the California Golden Trout Project and their current conservation efforts,

Your donation will be tripled in our $90,000 initiative for Golden Trout habitat restoration in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California

Illistration Provided By: James Prosek

Progress for Giving

California’s southern Sierra Nevada region is valued by anglers and outdoor enthusiasts alike for its vast and rugged beauty and its stark high-elevation wilderness. It is also home to the historical habitat for California’s state fish, the California golden trout, a brilliant gold-and-red salmonid that evolved from an isolated population of sea-run rainbow trout. The golden’s origin has been traced to the high-elevation streams of the Kern River drainage, specifically the South Fork Kern River and Golden Trout Creek.

In 1978, the 300,000-acre Golden Trout Wilderness was created by federal law to help preserve and protect golden trout native habitat. For good reason: Golden trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss aquabonita) are a natural aesthetic masterpiece. Their glowing yellow scales blend with a scorched apricot belly, and a fiery red lateral line stretches through the charcoal-colored parr marks along their sides. Imagine an emblazoned East Coast autumn packaged as a trout.

Sadly, the future of the California golden trout is threatened on several fronts and it is in danger of becoming extinct throughout its native range. The golden trout has lived alongside humans in the Sierra since the Gold Rush. However, the impact of humans has inadvertently caused tremendous pressure on the species. Among those pressures are the non-native species of trout, and poor cattle grazing strategies that degrade streambeds and increase sediment.

Descendants of stocked rainbow and brook trout, coupled with illegally introduced brown trout has resulted in predation, competition for resources, and hybridization which compromises the golden’s genetic integrity. In addition, since brook and brown trout spawn in the fall, their young get a head start on the progeny of the spring-spawning goldens. The fragile high-elevation ecosystem cannot sustain native golden trout under the current conditions.

For its 2004 conservation project, Orvis has teamed with California Trout (CalTrout) and Trout Unlimited of California (TU) to help protect and restore the native California golden trout in the Golden Trout Wilderness of the Southern Sierra Nevada in 2004. Donations made to the Golden Trout Project will be matched by Orvis and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, so that each $100 donation results in $300 toward the project.

California Trout’s mission is to protect and restore wild trout and steelhead and their waters throughout California. At its inception in 1971, CalTrout was the first statewide conservation organization dedicated to coldwater fisheries, with approximately 600 members in its first year of operation. Currently the organization has 6,000 active members.

Our conservation strategies are focused on removing the threats to the California golden trout through a variety of restoration methods. Working with landowners and cattle ranchers, grazing allotments will be monitored to assess the impact on essential riparian and aquatic areas. Both CalTrout and TU California will work closely with the California Department of Fish and Game, the U.S. Forest service, and Orvis’ new retail stores in San Francisco, Palo Alto, and Pasadena to develop volunteer work parties and field crews. These volunteers will erect cattle exclosure fences, collect genetic data, and improve streambanks through stabilization techniques and willow plantings in 2004. With key funds raised in the Orvis matching gift campaign, CalTrout and TU will also conduct genetic studies to determine the genetic purity of golden trout and the distribution of individual native golden trout throughout the Golden Trout Wilderness. Finally, TU and CalTrout will develop education and outreach materials for the public.

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