The Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout, New Mexico’s state fish, is one of a dozen sub-species of trout, but the only one native to New Mexico. Historically it has occupied the headwater streams of the Rio Grande, Canadian, and Pecos basins. The Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout have also tragically seen a decline in range due to several factors — competition, predation, and hybridization with non-native fish.
The Rio Costilla Project began over 30 years ago, to restore native fish populations to their historic water ranges. Over the past three decades, non-native fish have been slowly removed from the projected area, and in 2016 a permanent fish barrier was constructed. Now native fish like the Cutthroat Trout are being reintroduced to establish self-sustaining, wild populations.
Other native Rio Costilla fish include the Rio Grande Chub, the Rio Grande Sucker, and the Rio Costilla Basin, all of which have experienced declines along with the Cutthroat Trout.
The project is a collaboration of numerous organizations, including but not limited to: the New Mexico Game and Fish Department, the US Forest Service (Carson National Forest), the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the Vermejo Park Ranch, and Trout Unlimited. The Cutthroat Trout reintroduction efforts are being fueled by the Cutthroat Trout populations at the NM Game & Fish’s Seven Springs Fish Hatchery.