It All Started with the Native Bull Trout

two bull trout in a stream

In the summer of 2002 a small group of folks met with Avista Utilities to try and mitigate the negative environmental impacts of the Clark Fork and Noxon Hydroelectric dams. From this, numerous innovative projects were created, among them, the formation of the Clark Fork-Pend Oreille Conservancy, which was later renamed Kaniksu Land Trust. From 2002 through 2007, KLT worked closely with partners like Idaho Fish and Game, Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks, Avista and others to promote private land conservation to protect important streams and migration corridors for the threatened Bull Trout and other fish.

Bull Trout are found in the Clark Fork and Flathead drainages of western Montana and north west Idaho. Their slowly declining trend has led to their designation as a threatened species. Bull Trout are a sensitive species that do not tolerate high sediment levels in their spawning streams. Sediment can suffocate the developing embryos before they hatch. In Flathead Lake, where they achieve trophy sizes of up to 25 pounds, the Bull Trout life cycle has been studied extensively. Adult Bull Trout ascend the North and Middle forks of the Flathead River to spawn in small tributary streams; in some cases traveling well over 100 miles in a few months. They spawn in the fall and the adults return to the lake. Young fish may spend up to three years in the tributaries before returning to mature in Flathead Lake. In other river systems, Bull Trout may be a resident stream fish.