Trout are important as an “indicator species” of a watershed. When a watershed is in trouble, the trout are the first to die. Species like the greenback cutthroat, gila, and westslope cutthroat trout thrived in Western watersheds until their habitats were altered because of roads, dams, agriculture, and logging. Human introduction of non-native trout species, such as rainbow, brown and brook trout put further pressure on native species by out-competing them for food and by eating native fry. Conservation of Western native trout and their habitats is critical in maintaining their cultural, scientific and recreational value.
All native trout species populations are of concern. Four native trout species have been petitioned for listing under the Endangered Species Act. Six species are listed as threatened, and one species is listed as endangered. Some species are extinct in certain areas but not in others. For example, no bull trout have been caught in California since the 1970s.
The Western Native Trout Initiative (WNTI) represents the first time relevant agencies, organizations, and private interests have come together to address challenges to western native trout. WNTI makes a unified commitment to improving management and increasing public awareness of and support for the conservation needs of these imperiled species. One of its most significant recent accomplishments was the development of A Plan for Strategic Action, which establishes strategic goals, objectives and actions, and an approach that includes increased coordination, action, and accountability needed to ensure the long-term viability of important Western trout species.
Western Native Trout Initiative Coordinator