CalTrout expands statewide restoration work into new Mt. Lassen region

Nonprofit research and advocacy organization California Trout recently expanded their reach in Northern California with the opening of a new Mt. Lassen region. New projects strive to halt the current decline in native fish populations, recover endangered populations and support general ecosystem function within the Mt. Lassen region. The region has a physical office in Chico and joins CalTrout’s six other regional offices across California, a legislative/policy office in Sacramento and CalTrout headquarters in San Francisco.

Projects in CalTrout’s Mt. Lassen region concentrate on east-side tributaries of the Sacramento River which drain from the Cascade mountains in Butte, Tehama and Shasta counties. These projects strive to halt the current decline in native fish populations, recover endangered populations specifically adapted to the region’s geography and support general ecosystem function within the Mt. Lassen region. Specifically, they will work to restore connectivity for migratory fishes, provide access to colder and less degraded habitats and create natural segregation between fish runs. CalTrout recently received a funding recommendation for a fish passage project on Ótakim Séwi (Big Chico Creek) in Iron Canyon, which will serve as the flagship project for the new Mt. Lassen region.

“As a 20-year resident of Chico, when I heard CalTrout was expanding into this region and was taking on a fish passage project in Iron Canyon, I knew I had to be part of it,” said Holly Swan, new Project Manager for CalTrout’s Mt. Lassen region. “I am proud of CalTrout’s expansion into Chico and the Mt. Lassen region, and I am excited to help bring the importance of healthy watersheds and fish populations to the forefront of my community.”

The Iron Canyon Fish Passage Project received a funding recommendation from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in December 2022. Working with Chico State Big Chico Creek Ecological Reserve, the Mechoopda Tribe and other partners, CalTrout will remove a fish passage barrier in Iron Canyon, restoring access to more than eight miles of critical spawning and rearing habitat for steelhead and spring-run Chinook salmon in the upper reaches of the creek, including cold water habitat critical to build climate resilience for fish populations. Because these ocean-going migratory fish are keystone species, the entire ecosystem of upper Bidwell Park, which surrounds the project, will be revitalized as fish populations rebound, ultimately benefiting raptors, bears and other natural fish predators and bringing nutrients up from the ocean to enrich the soil and native plants.

In addition to project work on Big Chico Creek, CalTrout staff in the Mt. Lassen region lead habitat restoration and fish passage improvement projects in the Battle Creek watershed, which historically supported winter-run Chinook salmon, now a federally endangered species. Battle Creek is a tributary to the Sacramento River, located near Red Bluff. In 2021, CalTrout and partners completed a barrier removal and fish passage project on North Fork Battle Creek at Eagle Canyon, restoring access to four miles of winter-run Chinook salmon habitat. To further enhance fish passage opportunities, CalTrout is advocating for dam removal on Battle Creek. Currently, eight dams block access to 42 miles of anadromous habitat within the watershed. CalTrout is actively pursuing removal of this complex of hydroelectric facilities owned by PG&E. To support their advocacy work, they are forming partnerships within the surrounding community and with other nonprofits including the Battle Creek Watershed Conservancy.

Beyond Battle Creek, CalTrout continues to build relationships with the Mechoopda Tribe and other nonprofits and agencies that focus on issues within the upper watershed of Butte Creek.

“Mt. Lassen is a unique region, in no small part because we are home to winter-run Chinook salmon, one of the world’s most endangered types of salmon,” said Damon Goodman, Mt. Lassen Regional Director for CalTrout. “These salmon have adapted to the specific hydrology and habitat conditions associated with large spring systems that provide cold water all summer long. Our projects in the Mt. Lassen region are key components of our statewide Reconnect Habitat campaign. I am confident that with a concerted effort and a smart approach, we are going to make a real difference, for winter-run Chinook and for the other wild fish in this region of California.”

About California Trout
With seven regional offices across the state, CalTrout is fully immersed in key geographies where wild fish influence communities. They build partnerships with landowners, agencies, and the local community to find the best solutions for all Californians. CalTrout’s footprint of ecological impact across the state well positions the organization to implement large-scale conservation projects for the benefit of California’s fish, water, and people.