Aurora masthead.

Trout Creek Mountains, Oregon
by Wayne Elmore, BLM, Prineville, Oregon

Region: high desert country of southeastern Oregon; rugged topography, many canyons, elevation ranges from 4,000 to 8,000 ft.; avg. annual precipitation of 8-12" with about half of this occurring as snow from November to February in higher elevations.

Size of area - 544,000 acres (95% BLM public lands-, 5% private).

Primary uses of area: livestock grazing, (7 permittees/ranches in basin), general recreation (hunting, hiking, photography, camping), trophy mule deer hunting, trout fisheries (160 miles of perennial streams), archeological values, 5 wilderness study areas.

Issue: conflicts between livestock grazing and degraded stream and riparian conditions.

In 1988, the Trout Creek Mountain Working Group was formed to resolve conflicts over livestock grazing. The Working Group consists of representatives from:

  • Oregon's Cattleman's Association
  • Whitehorse Ranch (largest permittee in basin)
  • Disaster Peak Ranch
  • McCormick Ranch
  • Zimmerman Ranch
  • Wilkinson Ranches
  • Oregon Environmental Council
  • Oregon Trout
  • Izaak Walton League
  • Oregon State University
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  • Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife
  • Bureau of Land Management

All meetings are open to the public and anyone can join the Group.

In 1989, Whitehorse Ranch agreed to 3-year rest for their allotment (ca. 50,000 acres) on two mountain pastures. Fifteen Mile pasture received 3 years of rest before livestock grazing was reinitiated. Willow pasture received 5 years of rest before grazing was resumed.

Additional changes in grazing reduction in season of use from 4 months to 2 months in mountain pastures, reduction in the number of cattle from 1,900 to 700 in mountain pastures, reduction in the number of cattle from 1900 to 1500 in lower elevation pastures, and construction of additional water sources away from streams.

In 1991, genetic studies determined that the trout in Willow and Whitehorse creeks were Lahontan cutthroat trout, which is listed as a threatened species pursuant to the ESA.

Indicators of success: increasing trout populations; four no jeopardy biological opinions issued by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on grazing schemes developed by the Trout Creek Mountain Working Group.

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