Tuesday, December 5, 2023

BLM Temporarily Limits Vehicle Access to South Cow Mountain to Protect Imperiled Local Fish

The following is a press release issued by the Bureau of Land Management

South Cow Mountain OHV Management Area in the Ukiah Field Office [Photo by Eric Coulter, BLM.

The Bureau of Land Management Ukiah Field Office is taking measures to protect habitat for the imperiled Clear Lake hitch by temporarily limiting vehicle access to the South Cow Mountain OHV Management Area in Lake County. The temporary closure of the Scott’s Creek gate entrance near Lakeport is effective starting on Friday, May 12 and ending Thursday, June 1.  

The South Cow Mountain OHV Management Area will remain open to vehicle access on the west side via the Westside Staging Area near Ukiah in Mendocino County.  In addition, the Indian Valley/ Walker Ridge and Knoxville Management areas in Lake County will remain open to vehicle access as an alternate location for OHV recreation while the Scott’s Creek gate remains closed. Recreationists can continue to access the Scott’s Creek entrance by hiking.   

“This temporary gate closure at the Scott’s Creek entrance is required to protect water quality and juvenile fish as they migrate back to Clear Lake from Scott’s Creek and prevent destruction of riparian habitat necessary for juvenile Clear Lake hitch survival,” said Ukiah Field Manager Nicholas Lavrov. “This temporary gate closure is an added measure to ensure survival of the Clear Lake hitch as this species has shown rapid decline over the last several years.”

The state-threatened Clear Lake hitch, found only in the Clear Lake Basin, has been in rapid decline since 2017.  Presently, the Clear Lake hitch is under review for listing under the Endangered Species Act. In February  2023, the Lake County Board of Supervisors issued an emergency proclamation to save the culturally significant species known as Chi to the local Tribes. In recent years, due to drought, the fish have not been able to reach the spawning grounds on BLM lands. With the recent wet winter and spring, Scott’s Creek has become a productive breeding ground and rearing habitat for the fish. Scientists determined that 2017 was the last successful reproductive year and hitch live an average of six years; 2023 is potentially the last year for that age class of fish to successfully reproduce.

The BLM intends to partner with local Tribes, Governments, and Agencies to promote the protection of the species and prevent the imminent danger of extinction. This endeavor to close the Scott’s Creek entrance, while juvenile hitch remain in the creek is a key step to ensuring the prolonged survival of the species.

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Scott’s Creek is the largest tributary to Clear Lake. Much of the land within the South Cow Mountain OHV Management Area is within the Scott’s Creek watershed. Soils in the region are naturally high in nutrients like phosphorous and the BLM is mandated by the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board to reduce nutrient inputs into Scott’s Creek to protect the Clear Lake watershed. Temporary closure of the Scott’s Creek entrance will help to prevent unauthorized vehicle access into the creek to prevent degradation of water quality and the sensitive riparian area while water remains in the creek. Although the BLM operates on a multiple-use mission that includes grazing, recreational access, and minerals extraction, protecting identified significant resources within streams and riparian areas is a priority use of those lands.

Please remain respectful and stay on designated routes to avoid crushing juvenile fish and to protect a valuable water resource critical to the Lake County community and Clear Lake hitch survival.

Pack It In – Pack It Out: The Bureau of Land Management encourages all recreationists to practice Leave No Trace ethics while recreating on public lands. Help the BLM be good stewards and preserve public lands for future generations.

A copy of the closure order is available here. For more information, please visit the South Cow Mountain webpage. For specific questions, contact the Ukiah Field Office at 707-468-4000 or by email at BLM_CA_Web_UK@blm.gov.

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Matt LaFever
Matt LaFeverhttps://mendofever.com/
I like to think of myself as a reporter for the Average Joe. Journalism has become a craft defined largely by city dwellers on America's coasts. It’s time to take it back. I have been an Emerald Triangle resident since 2006 and this is year ten in Mendocino County. Please, email me at matthewplafever@gmail.com if you know a story that needs to be told.

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