The Santa Fe National Forest (SFNF) will implement a temporary closure order for the Willow Creek drainage on the Pecos/Las Vegas Ranger District from June 14-18 and July 19-23, 2021, as part of the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish’s conservation strategy to restore the native Rio Grande cutthroat trout to the Pecos River basin.
The biggest threat to the Rio Grande cutthroat is the introduction of nonnative fish species, like brown trout, which compete with the native fish for food. NM Game and Fish will use a piscicide in Willow Creek to remove the nonnative fish as the first phase of a project to restore Rio Grande cutthroat trout to Willow Creek, adding 9 miles of stream to their current distribution.
The Rio Grande cutthroat trout currently occupies only 11% of its historic distribution in New Mexico and Colorado. NM Game and Fish has identified the upper Pecos River basin as a priority for Rio Grande cutthroat restoration. The Pecos River basin currently has 12 Rio Grande cutthroat conservation populations, mostly in small headwater streams. NM Game and Fish’s statewidefisheries management plan outlines a strategy to increase the number of secure Rio Grande cutthroat populations and occupied stream miles to improve the conservation status of the species and provide additional opportunities for recreational angling.
This closure order restricts an area within a 100-meter boundary surrounding Willow Creek, starting by the Links Tract Campground and extending approximately 5 miles to the northeast and 1 mile southeast of Links Tract from June 14-18 and July 19-23, 2021. Signs will be posted to remind the public that Willow Creek and all access points to the creek will be temporarily closed to the public.
Federal, state and local officers, members of an organized rescue team or firefighting force, and any others authorized by permit are exempt from the closure order.
Violation of the closure order is a Class B misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not more than $5,000 for individuals and $10,000 for organizations, imprisonment of not more than six months, or both.
The closure order and map are posted on the SFNF website.