Conservation Planning

Our conservation planning efforts help to answer the question of where the best opportunities exist for TU’s conservation work. To accomplish this, we use the best available information on fisheries resources, habitat conditions and future threats to identify priority areas for protection, reconnection, and restoration. This helps to ensure that TU’s place-based work achieves the greatest conservation benefit for the least cost.


Birdsong, T.W., D.C. Dauwalter, G.P. Garrett, B.J. Labay, M. Bean, J. Broska, J. Graham, S. Magnelia, K.B. Mayes, M. McGarrity, K.M. Johnson, S. Robertson, T. Thompson, S. Vail-Muse, and J.B. Whittier. 2018. Native fish conservation areas of the southwestern USA: facilitating landscape-scale conservation of aquatic habitats and freshwater fishes. Final report submitted to Wildlife Management Institute in fulfillment of Grant Agreement GPLCC 2015-01, "Watershed-Based Conservation Planning to Inform Selection and Implementation of a Network of Native Fish Conservation Areas." This report highlights how the Native Fish Conservation Area concept is being used to deliver conservation in the southwest. Appendix A: Fish Diversity within Native Fish Conservation Areas of the Southwestern USA

Howard, J.K., K. A. Fesenmyer, T. E. Grantham, J. H. Viers, P. R. Ode, P. B. Moyle, S. J. Kupferburg, J. L. Furnish, A. Rehn, J. Slusark, R. D. Mazor, N. R. Santos, R. A. Peek, and A. N. Wright. 2018. A freshwater conservation blueprint for California: prioritizing watersheds for freshwater biodiversity. Freshwater Science. 2018. 37(2).


Dauwalter, D.C., J.E. Williams, J. McGurrin, J.E. Brooks, D.L. Propst. 2017. Vulnerability of Gila trout streams to future wildfires and temperature warming. Pages 195-205 in Proceedings of the Wild Trout XII Symposium, R. F. Carline, editor. Science, politics, and wild trout management: who’s driving and where are we going? Proceedings of the Wild Trout XII Symposium. West Yellowstone, Montana.


Trout Unlimited. 2015. Escalante River Aquatic Assessment Final Report. Trout Unlimited, Arlington, VA.


Dauwalter, D.C., J. McGurrin, M. Gallagher, S. Hurley. 2014. Status assessment of coastal and anadromous brook trout in the United States. Pages 192-199 in R. F. Carline, editor. Looking Back and Moving Forward. Proceedings of the Wild Trout XI Symposium. West Yellowstone, Montana. This study represents the first comprehensive status assessment of salter brook trout in the United States.

D. Reinke and K. Fesenmyer. 2014. Hangman Creek Conservation Success Index:  Opportunities for Redband Trout Restoration and Protection. Trout Unlimted, Arlington, VA.  TU applied the CSI framework to describe redband trout population status, habitat condition, and future threats in the Hangman Creek basin of WA and ID.

K.A. Fesenmyer.  2014.  Central Appalachians Conservation Success Index. Trout Unlimited, Arlington, VA. The Central Appalachians CSI provides an assessment of brook trout populations and habitats and their threats in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland, and Virginia, with focus on vulnerability from shale gas development.  View a companion webmap for the assessment.  An overview of how the CSI can be used to inform water quality monitoring is provided in this document.

K. Fesenmyer.  2014. Range-wide Assessment of Strategic Management Opportunities for Wild Winter and Summer Steelhead.  Version 1.0, November 2014. Trout Unlimited, Arlington, VA.  TU mapped wild steelhead population and habitat conditions and identified strategic conservation actions across CA, OR, WA, and ID to support the Wild Steelhead Initiative.

K.A. Fesenmyer and D.C. Dauwalter.  2014.  Redband Trout Habitat Assessment: Owyhee, Bruneau-Jarbidge, and Salmon Falls Creek Basins.  Final report to Nevada State Office, U.S. Bureau of Land Management.  Trout Unlimited, Arlington, VA. Redband trout abundance and distribution in the high desert basins of Nevada, Idaho, and Oregon is related to several key habitat factors, including stream temperature, riparian vegetation condition, and the presence of non-native species.  This assessment describes existing information and newly developed products related to the pattern of these factors and identifies conservation opportunities for redband trout.  View a companion webmap for the assessment.

Williams, R.N., D.C. Dauwalter, R.F. Thurow, D.P. Philipp, J.E. Williams. 2014. Identifying Upper Snake River Basin Native Fish Conservation Areas. Federation of Fly Fishers Report to National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Livingston, Montana. Native Fish Conservation Areas are watersheds managed for natural watershed processes and cold- and warmwater native fish conservation, and this study identified watersheds in the Upper Snake River Basin that may potentially serve as NFCAs.


Fesenmyer, K.A, R.E. Henery, and J.E. Williams. 2013. California BLM Aquatic Assessments and Tools. TU modified its Conservation Success Index and Meadow Restoration Fish Assessment Tool to assist the Bureau of Land Management in California in identifying key native aquatic species conservation strategies and evaluate proposed actions.

Haak, A.L. and J.E. Williams. 2013. Using native trout restoration to jumpstart freshwater conservation planning in the Interior West. Journal of Conservation Planning. 9:38-52. Applying the financial concepts of portfolio management to trout conservation provides a systematic approach for aquatic conservation planning that can accrue numerous other benefits to broader aquatic ecosystems.  A case study of Rio Grande cutthroat trout is used to demonstrate these concepts.

Peterson, D. P., S. J. Wenger, B. E. Rieman, and D. J. Isaak. 2013. Linking climate change and fish conservation efforts using spatially explicit decision support tools. Fisheries 38:112-127. We present approaches to conservation prioritization and other kinds of fish management that considers effects of climate change.


Dauwalter, Daniel C., Carolyn J. Hall, Jack E. Williams. 2012. Assessment of Atlantic Coast watersheds for river herring and diadromous fish conservation. Trout Unlimited final report to National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. Trout Unlimited, Arlington, Virginia.  Diadromous fishes are an integral part of Atlantic Coast stream ecosystems and support important recreational and commercial fisheries.  This report highlights important watersheds and priorities for diadromous fish conservation from Maine to Virginia.

Fesenmyer, K.A., and A. Moore. 2012. An Assessment of Coho, Steelhead, and Coastal Cutthroat Trout Habitats in Ecola Creek, Oregon. TU used LiDAR data and field surveys to identify habitat restoration opportunities for native salmonids in the Ecola Creek watershed related to riparian vegetation management and large instream wood.

Gresswell, R.E., P. Budy, C. S. Guy, M. J. Hansen, M. L. Jones, P. J. Martinez, C. Suski, and  J. E. Williams.  2012.  Confronting a lake trout invasion of Yellowstone Lake: An interim scientific assessment, June 14–16, 2011. A Report to the Superintendent of Yellowstone National Park. U.S. Geological Survey, Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center, Bozeman, Montana. YCR-2012-04.  Here is the latest report on what must be done to restore Yellowstone cutthroat trout in Yellowstone Lake; the effectiveness of current lake trout suppression efforts, and the emerging science surrounding those efforts.  

Haak, A.L. and J.E. Williams. 2012. Spreading the Risk:  Native Trout Management in a Warmer and Less-Certain Future. North American Journal of Fisheries Management. 32:387-401. The financial concept of a diverse management portfolio is applied to native trout conservation as a strategy for the long-term persistence of native species in an era of rapid environmental change.  Application of the concept is described in case studies of Yellowstone cutthroat trout and Rio Grande cutthroat.


Dauwalter, D.C., H.M. Neville, and J.E. Williams. 2011 A Landscape-based Protocol to Identify Management Opportunities for Aquatic Habitats and Native Fishes on Public Lands, Phase II: Upper Colorado River Basin. Report to U.S. Bureau of Land Management per Cooperative Agreement PAA-08-0008.  Trout Unlimited, Boise, Idaho. Effective public lands management requires aquatic assessment data across broad scales.  This report shows how Trout Unlimited’s CSI can be used to help to inform BLM planning and develop aquatic conservation strategies across large landscapes.

Dauwalter, D. C., J. S. Sanderson, J. E. Williams, and J. R. Sedell. 2011. Identification and implementation of Native Fish Conservation Areas in the Upper Colorado River Basin. Fisheries 36:278-288. A study demonstrating how NFCAs can be rigorously identified and implemented in the upper Colorado River basin.

Fesenmyer, K.A.  2011.  Trout Unlimited’s Conservation Success Index: Conservation and Monitoring Strategies for Pennsylvania’s Coldwater Habitats - summary. TU applied its Conservation Success Index methods to Pennsylvania’s coldwater habitats to identify conservation strategies for the best remaining trout fisheries in the state and water quality monitoring strategies for watersheds with existing or predicted Marcellus Shale natural gas development. Full report.

Haak, A. L. 2011. Broadscale Assessment of Renewable Energy Potential and the Human Footprint. TU Publication. An assessment of human impacts on the western landscape is used in conjunction with distribution data for native salmonids and an analysis of renewable energy potential (i.e. wind and solar) to provide a spatially explicit overview of potentially suitable lands for development.

Haak, A.L., J.E. Williams, and W. T. Colyer 2011. Developing a Diverse Conservation Portfolio for Bonneville Cutthroat Trout.  TU Publication. The conservation portfolio and 3-R framework are applied to Bonneville cutthroat trout.  Report includes maps and tables characterizing the current portfolio of BCT at the population scale.

Haak, A.L. and J.E. Williams 2011. Developing a Diverse Conservation Portfolio for Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout.  TU Publication. The conservation portfolio and 3-R framework are applied to Rio Grande cutthroat trout.  Report includes maps and tables characterizing the current portfolio of RGCT at the population scale.

Haak, A.L., J.E. Williams, and D. C. Dauwalter 2011. Developing a Diverse Conservation Portfolio for Colorado River Cutthroat Trout.  TU Publication. The conservation portfolio and 3-R framework are applied to Colorado River cutthroat trout.  Report includes maps and tables characterizing the current portfolio of CRCT at the population scale.

Haak, A.L. and J.E. Williams 2011. Developing a Diverse Conservation Portfolio for Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout.  TU Publication. The conservation portfolio and 3-R framework are applied to Yellowstone cutthroat trout.  Report includes maps and tables characterizing the current portfolio of YCT at the population scale.

Williams, J.E., R.N. Williams, R.F. Thurow, L. Elwell, D.P. Philipp, F.A. Harris, J.L. Kershner, P.J. Martinez, D. Miller, G.H. Reeves, C.A. Frissell, and J.R. Sedell.  2011.  Native Fish Conservation Areas: a vision for large-scale conservation of native fish communities. Fisheries  35:267-277.  Here is the introductory paper describing the concept of Native Fish Conservation Areas and why this broad-scale approach to conservation is an effective and badly needed management tool in this day and age.


Haak, A.L., Williams, J.E., Isaak, D., Todd, A., Muhlfeld, C., Kershner, J.L., Gresswell, R., Hostetler, S., and Neville, H.M., 2010, The potential influence of changing climate on the persistence of salmonids of the inland west: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2010–1236, 74 p. This co-operative study between TU, U.S. Geological Survey and the Rocky Mountain Research Station examines the influence of four climate change factors (i.e. summer temperature, winter flooding, drought, and wildfire) on the persistence of native trout and grayling within 11 western states.

Haak, A.L., J.E. Williams, H.M. Neville, D.C. Dauwalter, W.T. Colyer. 2010. Conserving peripheral trout populations: the value and risk of life on the edge. Fisheries 35(11):530-549. Assessment analyzes range-wide losses of peripheral and core populations since the 1800’s, and evaluated the likelihood of persistence for remaining populations of five cutthroat trout subspecies:  Bonneville, Colorado River, Yellowstone, Rio Grande, and westslope.

Lahontan Cutthroat Trout Keystone Initiative. 2010.  We work with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to help guide and implement this program, through which they fund priority conservation needs for the Federally-listed Lahontan cutthroat trout: eradicating non-native species and protecting watersheds from invasion, reconnecting stream populations, working with agencies and landowners to restore habitat, and reintroducing populations across the native range will help move this unique trout towards recovery.

Wenger, S.J., M.C. Freeman, L.A. Fowler, B.J. Freeman and J.T. Peterson. 2010. Conservation planning for imperiled aquatic species in an urbanizing environment. Landscape and Urban Planning 97(1): 11-21. Urban development can be very damaging to aquatic systems, but we show how a science-driven management approach can minimize the harm.

Williams, J.E., and A.L. Haak.  2010.  Fisheries management during uncertain times: developing a diverse conservation portfolio for the long-term persistence of native trout. In Wild Trout X Symposium. Pages 32-39. West Yellowstone, Montana.  How the concept of portfolio diversity can apply to trout populations just as well as your financial investments and why it is a good idea to diversify both.


Haak, A. L. 2009. Analysis of the Coldwater Fisheries Values in the San Juan and Dolores Basins of Southwest Colorado. TU Publication.

Wenger, S.J., M.M. Hagler and B.J. Freeman. 2009. Prioritization of areas of the Conasauga River Sub-basin of Georgia and Tennessee for preservation and restoration. Proceedings of the Southeastern Fishes Council 51: 31-38. We use an objective approach to selecting the highest-priority watersheds for preservation and restoration.


Williams, J.E., R.N. Williams, and D.P. Philipp. 2008. Native Fish Conservation Areas. The Native Fish Conservation Area (NFCA) concept is a framework for cooperative watershed management focused on the long-term persistence of native fish communities while allowing for compatible uses.


Williams, J.E., A.L. Haak, N.G. Gillespie, and W.T. Colyer.  2007.  The Conservation Success Index: synthesizing and communicating salmonid condition and management needs. Fisheries 32:477-492.  This article describes the basic framework of the CSI, its components, and how scores and comprised with examples from western trout. 


DellaSala, D.A., and J.E. Williams.  2006.  Special section introduction: The Northwest Forest Plan: a global model of forest management in contentious times. Conservation Biology 20:274-276.  A primer on the Northwest Forest Plan that served as an introduction to a special section on the effectiveness of the plan on conserving species and maintaining ecosystem processes. 

Reeves, G.H., J.E. Williams, K.M. Burnett, and K. Gallo.  2006.  The Aquatic Conservation Strategy of the Northwest Forest Plan.  Conservation Biology 20:319-329.  Despite increasing wildfire, the ACS has been a very effective approach to restore health to streams and watersheds in the Northwest Forest Plan area during the first 10 years following plan implementation.


Webb, M.A.H., J.E. Williams, and L.R. Hildebrand.  2005.  Recovery program review for endangered pallid sturgeon in the Upper Missouri River Basin.  Reviews in Fisheries Science 13:165-176.  A look at recovery planning in the Upper Missouri and impacts to one of the most endangered fishes in the nation. 

Williams, J.E., C.A. Macdonald, C.D. Williams, H. Weeks, G. Lampman, and D.W. Sada.  2005.  Prospects for recovering endemic fishes pursuant to the U.S. Endangered Species Act. Fisheries 30(6):24-29.  This report describes the difficult task of recovery of fish that occur in very small geographic areas and why some of these narrow endemics may never meet their recovery criteria as described by the Endangered Species Act.


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