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Working Lands for Wildlife: Native Cutthroat Trout Initiative in Colorado

Trout Habitat - Image of StreamNRCS Colorado is working with landowners and partner organizations to improve habitat conditions across the native cutthroat trout landscape to benefit agricultural operations, recreationists, rural communities and our native fish and wildlife. Project partners are working together to develop on-the-ground projects that restore stream and riparian function, protect and enhance important cold water springs, streams and groundwater exchange, and enhance floodplain wet meadow habitats, all of which will improve stream flows and conditions. These projects also will benefit other sensitive species like the yellow-billed cuckoo and Colorado pikeminnow that depend on healthy systems.

Of the fourteen recognized subspecies of cutthroat trout, four evolved in Colorado, and the three remaining subspecies are the newest addition to the Working Lands for Wildlife campaign: 

  • Colorado River cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii pleuriticus) 
  • Greenback cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarki stomias)
  • Rio Grande cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii virginalis) 

Colorado Cutthroat TroutLandowners and land managers on higher elevation streams are encouraged to visit with their local USDA NRCS Service Center to inquire about the benefits of participating in the initiative. Learn more about the WLFW expansion to include new species (PDF, 4.94MB).

How the Initiative Works 

NRCS uses USDA Farm Bill conservation programs such as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) to provide technical and financial assistance to help land managers accelerate installation of conservation practices. Conservation practices are designed to be “win-win solutions” addressing threats facing both the native cutthroat trout and our limited water resources. This type of conservation work includes teaming up to:

  • Improve stream conditions by providing stream channel stability and enhanced in-stream and bank-edge fish habitat.
  • Improve floodplain health and productivity by reducing erosion potential and promoting productive, native plant communities.
  • Promote channel-floodplain connectivity and reduce unnecessary floodplain restrictions (example: to install culverts in roads that bisect the floodplain).
  • Improve water quality and quantity by developing nutrient and pest management plans and by designing drought contingency plans.
  • Improve streambank health by promoting healthy-bank management practices such as providing off-stream livestock watering sources.
  • Provide fish passage (when appropriate) by practices such as retrofitting existing diversion, culverts or dams.

Native Cutthroat Trout Important Watersheds (click on the map to enlarge)

For healthy streams (including those restored/enhanced under this program) there is the potential for cutthroat reintroductions!

While this initiative focuses its work on private lands, NRCS also participates in projects on federal lands where private individuals have leases, such as grazing or forest use leases. This unparalleled partnership aims for seamless conservation across boundaries.


The NRCS accepts applications on an ongoing basis. Colorado landowners and land mangers are encouraged to visit their local USDA NRCS Service Center for more information.

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Complete the application using forms NRCS-CPA-1200, Conservation Program Application and NRCS-CPA-1202Conservation Program Appendix (En Español). You may complete and print the form online.

NRCS’ native cutthroat trout conservation efforts are part of Working Lands for Wildlife (WLFW), the agency’s effort to accelerate conservation efforts for at-risk species. More information on WLFW.

To learn more about cutthroat trout, visit NRCS’s leaflet on cutthroat trout (PDF, 317KB).

State Contact:

Chanda Pettie, State Biologist
Denver Federal Center, Bldg 56, Rm 2604
P.O. Box 25426
Denver, CO 80225-0426
Office: (720) 544-2804