Multispecies and Watershed Approaches to Freshwater Fish Conservation

Partnering on Multispecies Aquatic Assessments to Inform Efficient Conservation Delivery

Daniel C. Dauwalter, Stephanie L. Vail-Muse, Therese Race Thompson, Joanna B. Whittier, Kevin M. Johnson, and Megan G. Bean

doi: https://doi.org/10.47886/9781934874578.ch2

Abstract.—Efficient conservation can require making strategic decisions across large landscapes. For example, two fish habitat partnerships—the Desert Fish Habitat Partnership and the Western Native Trout Initiative (WNTI)—fund conservation and restoration projects across the western United States. The Desert Fish Habitat Partnership alone serves 11 states and nearly 180 native fish species, and the Western Native Trout Initiative covers 21 salmonid species across 12 western states. Because of the large landscapes they represent, the partnerships are using multispecies aquatic assessments developed for specific river basins to aid in conservation delivery. These assessments yield a conservation value for every catchment in a basin based on known and modeled native fish distributions (including salmonids), riverine connectivity, and threats to aquatic habitats. The conservation values are scaled between 0 (low) and 1 (high) and have been used to evaluate the landscape context of conservation projects submitted for funding through the National Fish Habitat Partnership. While assessments are complete for some basins (e.g., upper and lower Colorado basins, upper Rio Grande basin), the partnerships are currently working with additional partners to fund aquatic assessments in new geographies (e.g., Bonneville and Lahontan basins). Multispecies assessments are used in conjunction with the knowledge of field biologists to inform on-the-ground conservation across large landscapes and make conservation delivery more efficient for the many imperiled native fishes in the western United States.