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Duckwater Shoshone Tribe Champions Recovery of Rare Desert Fish
Habitat Restoration Project Results in Self-Sustaining Population of Threatened Railroad Valley Springfish
by Jeannie Stafford
Photo Credit: USFWS
The federally threatened Railroad Valley springfish (Crenichthys nevadae) is a small fish only found in six thermal springs in Nye County, Nevada. In 2002, the survival of springfish at two springs on the Duckwater Shoshone Reservation was of great concern. One population disappeared from Big Warm Spring altogether and habitat destruction hurt the population at Little Warm Spring.
In 2003, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) and the Duckwater Shoshone Tribe partnered to restore the springfish on the Reservation whilepreserving the Tribe’s economic, social, agricultural, and cultural way of life. The Service’s partnership with the Tribe then expanded to include the Nevada Department of Wildlife, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and U.S. Geological Survey’s Biological Resources and Water Resources Divisions.
Funds from the Service’s Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, Tribal Wildlife Grants, and a grant from the Tribal Land Owner Incentive Program helped fund habitat restoration projects on Tribal land. The completed project restored 90 acres (36 hectares) of wetlands, 45 acres (18 ha) of upland habitat and two miles (three kilometers) of stream channel. Importantly, the Tribe installed a public education boardwalk so visitors could view the springfish in its natural habitat without negatively impacting the spring environment.
In 2007, a Safe Harbor Agreement with the Tribe was signed that to ensure the Tribe use of its historic water rights while ensuring recovery of the population of Railroad Valley springfish at Big Warm Spring. Today, for the first time in 20 years, there is a self-sustaining and reproducing population of the springfish at Big Warm Spring.
Photo Credit: USFWS
“There is a great sense of joy and fulfillment in my heart seeing the restored spring with the stream channel flowing in the location the Great Spirit intended it to go rather than the man-made direction,” says Tribal Manager Jerry Millet. “Our goal as a Tribe is to continue into the future. Improving health in the land and water for the preservation of the unique and ancient springfish is part of the Duckwater Peoples legacy for our future generations."
“The success of the Big Warm Spring Restoration projects was founded in the collaborative process and persistent communication involving the Tribe, the individual tribal business owner, the Service, Nevada Department of Wildlife, Bureau of Land Management, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs and the State Water Engineer’s Office,” Millet adds.
The Tribe has since secured additional funding to implement the restoration of Little Warm Spring. They have developed more than 25 additional acres (10 ha) of shallow water wetland habitat for springfish recovery and Little Warm Spring is now home to a robust population of Railroad Valley springfish. The Duckwater Shoshone Tribe and Tribal members Virginia Sanchez, Jerry Millett, Lisa George-Millet, and Annette George were honored by the Service as 2010 Endangered Species Recovery Champions for their recovery efforts.
Jeannie Stafford, a public affairs officer in the Service’s Nevada Fish and Wildlife Office, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 775-861-6300.
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