Although greenback cutthroats were declared extinct in 1937 -- victims of mining pollution, fishing pressure and competition from other trout species -- several small populations were discovered in tributaries to the Arkansas River and South Platte River drainages in the 1950s, she said. Greenback cutthroats were added to the federal list of endangered species in 1978.
State and federal fish managers began taking eggs and sperm from what were believed to be surviving populations of pure greenback cutthroats in the 1970s, rearing them in hatcheries and returning them to native cutthroat habitat. The habitat -- small streams and lakes -- had been cleared of non-native fish species to heighten survivability of the greenbacks, said Metcalf.
"We have to remember that management decisions by federal and state fisheries biologists over the past decades were based on the best reports available by experts at the time," said Metcalf, who received her doctorate from CU-Boulder in ecology and evolutionary biology under Martin in August. "Fortunately, the data is becoming more accurate over time as genetic techniques improve and the peer review process is increasingly incorporated into scientific management strategies."
The Colorado Division of Wildlife reached its goal of 20 self-sustaining populations in 2006, positioning the greenback for removal from the list of federally protected species. "But the new study means that we have not reached the targeted management goals, and the species is no closer to being removed from the endangered species list than when it originally was listed," Martin said.
"Our results suggest greenback cutthroat trout within its native range is at a higher risk of extinction than ever before despite conservation activities spanning more than two decades," the authors wrote in Molecular Ecol
|Contact: Jessica Metcalf|
University of Colorado at Boulder