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Trout Troubles: A Bellwether for Utah Water, Conservation Group Says

Steve Schmidt
Western Rivers Flyfisher
If the nation's rivers are healthy enough for wild trout, then they'll be healthy enough to meet human needs -- that's the thinking behind a new report on the state of the nation's trout.

The group Trout Unlimited says the nation’s trout are in trouble.

Development, invasive species and climate change are threats that have pushed the native trout to just one quarter of the places they used to thrive nationwide. TU’s president and CEO, Chris Wood, told reporters in a conference call Tuesday it’s not just a problem for people who like to fish.

“Make no mistake: This report belies its title; it is not about trout,” he said. “It’s about us. If people care about clean drinking water, they should care about native trout. In a very real sense, as the trout go, so do we.”

Utah’s state fish, the Bonneville cutthroat, was on the verge of extinction before the state Division of Wildlife Resources restored it over three decades. Now three subspecies of cutthroat are native to Utah, but they’re only found in under a third of their historic range.

Steve Schmidt, owner of the Western Rivers Flyfisher store in Salt Lake City, sees the report as a call to action, especially on climate change.

“I’m going to catch all the trout I want in my lifetime,” he says. “I’m really concerned that my kids are not going to have that same experience. Everything I do for today is for them tomorrow, because that’s the legacy we will leave.”

Schmidt has actively opposed plans for the billion-dollar Bear River Project because of its potential impact on trout habitat.

Judy Fahys has reported in Utah for two decades, covering politics, government and business before taking on environmental issues. She loves covering Utah, where petroleum-pipeline spills, the nation’s radioactive legacy and other types of pollution provide endless fodder for stories. Previously, she worked for the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah, and reported on the nation’s capital for States News Service and the Scripps League newspaper chain. She is a longtime member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. She also spent an academic year as a research fellow in the Knight Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In her spare time, she enjoys being out in the environment, especially hiking, gardening and watercolor painting.
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