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The Mountain-Prairie Region


U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
134 Union Boulevard
Lakewood, Colorado 80228

May 30, 2001

Contacts: John Seals 719-486-0189
Carol Taylor 303-236-7862 x285
Karen Gleason 303-236-7917, x431

New Manager at Leadville National Fish Hatchery
to Guide Whirling Disease Clean-Up and Fish Production for Colorado

After two years without a permanent manager, the 112-year old Leadville National Fish Hatchery in Leadville, Colorado, has a new leader. John Seals, a ten-year veteran of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, has taken over operations as the new Hatchery Manager at the federal facility.

The hatchery manager position has been vacant while the Service determined the future of the hatchery, which is the only facility in the National Fish Hatchery System to have tested positive for whirling disease. While not harmful to humans, the pathogen inhibits the ability of young trout to survive. Seals will direct the clean-up, as well as new initiatives at the hatchery.

"We’ve been working with our partners and the community to carefully consider the alternatives for the future of this hatchery, which has served the American people for over 100 years," said Ralph Morgenweck, Director of the Service’s eight-state Mountain-Prairie Region. "Now that we’ve together determined that direction, we are moving forward with plans to bring the facility and its programs into the 21st Century."

Seals will implement recommendations the Service made last October in an environmental assessment of the hatchery’s operations. The plan includes installing an ultra violet light system designed to eliminate whirling disease. That project will begin once funding is available.

When the clean-up is accomplished, Leadville National Fish Hatchery will concentrate its efforts on developing a native cutthroat trout broodstock and refugia. That effort will start with the federally threatened greenback cutthroat trout, the state fish of Colorado. Similar programs for the Colorado River cutthroat and Rio Grande cutthroat trout may be established in the future.

The hatchery will continue to stock trout to support fishing and to offset fish losses caused by the Fryingpan-Arkansas federal water project and in Highline Reservoir near Grand Junction to support the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program. The Leadville hatchery stocked over 200,000 Snake River cutthroat trout last year, resulting in 55,000 angler days of recreational fishing in the state which is valued at over $2,740,000.

John Seals, a native of Colorado, worked as Assistant Hatchery Manager at Jones Holes National Fish Hatchery near Vernal, Utah. Prior to Jones Hole, he worked as a fisheries biologist with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Arizona at Willow Beach National Fish Hatchery and studying endangered fish in the Grand Canyon. He earned a degree in Wildlife and Fisheries Management at the University of Arizona. While in Colorado, he lived in Monte Vista, LaVeta, and Rangely.

"I’ve really been itching to get back home for a while," said Seals.

"My greatest challenge in this new position is to rally community support for our efforts to produce whirling-disease-free trout for the anglers of Colorado," he added. "My other goal is to help recover the Colorado state fish, the threatened greenback cutthroat."

The Leadville National Fish Hatchery is one of the oldest national hatcheries in the country. It was established in 1889 to restore depleted stocks of trout in the Upper Arkansas River, the Black Hills of South Dakota and Nebraska. More recently the hatchery has focused its work primarily on waters in Colorado.

The hatchery, located 6 miles southwest of Leadville on Highway 300, welcomes over 36,000 visitors a year to get a close-up view of the fish production process. Educational tours and exhibits are available in the historic Visitor Center, with two public fishing ponds on-site. Numerous outdoor recreation opportunities and breathtaking subalpine views are also available in the adjacent forested Mt. Massive Wilderness Area.

Children’s Fishing Day, an annual event, will be celebrated at Leadville National Fish Hatchery on Saturday, June 2 from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. The public is welcome to attend.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 94-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System which encompasses more than 535 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 70 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resource offices and 78 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces Federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.

For more information about the Mountain-Prairie Fisheries Program, including information on the locations of fish stocked by National Fish Hatcheries in the region, please visit our website at

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