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Instream Restoration Riparian Restoration Fish Passage
Trout Creek Mountain Area Grazing Management Project – Whitehorse Butte Allotment   Malheur County, Oregon
Primary Project Type: Riparian Restoration
     Secondary Type:
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  Trout Creek/Oregon Canyon Mountains area...  

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Primary Problem: Overgrazing
     Secondary Problem:
Main Restoration Action(s): Grazing management
Native Fish Focus: Lahotan cutthroat
Is this project part of a watershed scale restoration? No
Project Dates: 1989 to Ongoing
  Initial Monitoring: Riparian monitoring -1981; Fish surveys - 1985, 1989, and 1994
Restoration Implementation: 1989 - ongoing
Follow-up Monitoring: Ongoing
Lead Agency:
     Bureau of Land Management, Vale District Office
Project Partners:
  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Trout Creek Mountain Working Group
Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife
Sierra Club
Isaac Walton League
Project Location: 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 (70 miles of perennial streams), archeological values, 5 wilderness study areas.

More specifically, the Whitehorse Butte Allotment consists of 127,000 acres of public land with in the Oregon Canyon and Trout Creek Mountains in southeastern Oregon. The allotment is just south of the Whitehorse Ranch and about 20 miles northwest of McDermitt, Nevada. Click here for a map.
Project Description: The Trout Creek Mountain area has a 130 year history of livestock grazing from June to October. Most of the ranches are family-owned and historically have produced wild hay and alfalfa on their flood irrigated meadows. By the 1960s, nearly a century of grazing had taken its toll on stream channels, riparian vegetation, and overall trout habitat.

In the 1970s, 20 thousand willows were planted to restore stream banks and thousands of acres of depleted rangelands were treated to provide forage away from riparian areas and native range. Unfortunately summer-long grazing was still practiced at that time and nearly all of the willows died. By the late 1980s, stream banks were eroded and riparian vegetation was sparse. The water table had dropped and upland vegetation was encroaching. The endemic cutthroat trout had been recognized as unique and in need of protection, but trout habitat was severely degraded and the ranchers’ permits to graze cattle in the mountains were in jeopardy.

In 1988, the Trout Creek Mountain Working Group (TCMWG) was formed to find a long term solution that would provide for both the ecological health of the land (restoring stream conditions and trout habitat) and the cultural and economic well being of the ranching community. To achieve both, new grazing management systems were needed. Without eliminating all grazing, the traditional way cattle used the mountain was changed so that the riparian vegetation needed to preserve trout habitat could be restored. This case history explores the Whitehorse Butte Allotment Management Plan (AMP), monitoring, and results.
Project Goals: To provide both sustainable ecosystems and sustainable ranching. Find a way to improve and protect watershed and riparian conditions, improve Lahontan cutthroat trout habitat (Lahontan cutthroat trout (LCT) were listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act in 1975), and provide sustainable ranching operations.
Project Methods: New grazing strategies aim to minimize the impacts of warm-season grazing and allow the riparian areas to recover. Some pastures were re-configured and several were rested for at least 3 years before the new grazing practices were put into effect. Forage demands were reduced. A two year grazing rotation was changed to a four year rotation, and most pastures are now given at least one year to rest. The more sensitive riparian pastures on top of the mountain are rested for two years. Click here for additional information.
Click here for an enlarged photo
  Buckcorral Spring (upstream), Oregon Canyon Creek - June 1988...  
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  Buckcorral Spring (upstream), Oregon Canyon Creek - October 2003...  
Monitoring Data and Collection Methods: Biological Assessments were conducted by the BLM to analyze effects of grazing in accordance with the AMPs on LCT and its habitat. Monitoring techniques include aerial photography, riparian transects to monitor vegetation (1981 - present), upland vegetation utilization and trend studies (ongoing), and electrofishing (1985, 1989, 1994) to monitor LCT. The TCMWG also tours the pastures each fall to discuss concerns and monitor progress. Click here for additional information.
Was this project effective and how was this determined? Despite approximately ten years of drought, implemented grazing strategies have resulted in continuous overall improvement of riparian and upland habitat conditions. There is significant improvement in the condition of riparian vegetation; woody species have increased in both size and canopy volume, which has increased shade levels in the stream; and fish populations have also increased. Click here for additional information.
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  (Before) Looking downstream on Willow Creek before the new Whitehorse Butte Allo...  
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  (After) Looking downstream on Willow Creek 20 years after the new Whitehorse But...  
Confounding Effects/Additional Information:
Project Specs (all specs are estimates):
  Overall Estimated Cost: $70,000/year for BLM monitoring
For more information on this project contact:
  Cynthia Tait, U.S. Bureau of Land Management, Vale District Office, Email:
This information was collected by: Molly Boucher

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Updated: February 16, 2007
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