Endangered Species

There are two federally endangered species and one candidate species present within our watershed, including the Holy Ghost Ipomopsis, and endemic plant found here and nowhere else.  A brief summary of information about these species follows.

Holy Ghost Ipomosis (endangered)

The Holy Ghost Ipomopsis is a short-lived perennial plant (very similar to star gilia) that grows to about 2 feet tall and produces showy pink flowers.  It is known to exist only in Holy Ghost Canyon, where it is found in open areas within the ponderosa zone. The decline of this species and its restricted population may be a result of decreased fire frequency (hence fewer sunny openings) in forested areas.  It now occurs mostly in road cuts and other areas opened up by human disturbance.  Increasing the openings within existing ponderosa pine forests would likely increase the amount of open habitat available for the Holy Ghost Ipomopsis, although fire suppression has been the priority of the Forest Service in areas where the Holy Ghost Ipomopsis was historically found.

Mexican Spotted Owl (endangered)

Mexican Spotted Owl
Photo Credit: Rick & Nora Bowers

The Mexican Spotted Owl is dependent on old-growth forest and healthy riparian areas.  This species’ decline is attributed to habitat degradation and habitat loss.  It is unclear from published reports if or when Mexican Spotted Owls were found within the watershed, and how numerous they would have been, within the upper reaches of the watershed before logging and fire-suppression affected the composition and structure of these forests.

Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout (candidate species for listing)

Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout
Photo Credit: Andrew Vrana

The Rio Grande cutthroat trout (RGCT) is the only salmonid fish native to the Rio Grande (including the Pecos) watershed. For decades it has been out-competed or hybridized with introduced trout (mostly rainbow or brown trout) throughout almost all of its former range.  In 1992 through 1996, the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish reintroduced RGCT in Jacks Creek but with little success.  Today, the upper reaches of the Pecos (above Pecos Falls) and the upper reaches of Macho, Dalton, and Jacks Creek still harbor small, pure populations of native Pecos strain RGCT.  Upper Doctor Creek, also has a very small population of RGCT, which appears to be slightly hybridized based on mitochondrial DNA analysis (Eric Frey, pers. comm. August 15, 2011).  Restoration of Pecos strain Rio Grande Cutthroat trout to the upper reaches of the Pecos and its tributaries (i.e. above Cowles) has become more urgent than ever with the damage done by the recent Whitewater/Baldy fire to Gila Strain RGCT.

Like other salmonids, RGCT require cool water with adequate levels of dissolved oxygen, with low levels of stream bottom sediment and turbidity.  They also require complete protection from non-native fish.

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