Ensuring Thriving Trout and Salmon Populations for Future Generations


Many RCDs are involved in salmonid recovery and conservation efforts. Stories from the Inland Empire RCD and the Cachuma RCD highlight the diversity of efforts needed to help salmonids thrive in California. Collaborations with community members and public agencies are key in order to realize tangible improvements to habitat and fish populations.

Why Salmonids?

The California Association of Resource Conservation Districts (CARCD) and Resource Conservation Districts (RCDs) are committed to helping local communities and caring for land, water, soil, wildlife, and other natural resources. Salmonids include salmon, trout, chars, freshwater whitefishes, and graylings. All salmonids spawn in freshwater, but many travel to the sea as part of their life cycle. They are predatory fish and play an important ecosystem role. Many are farmed or caught for food, recreation, and hold important cultural value and significance for many communities throughout California.

Their role as predators as well as their elaborate spawning cycle makes them particularly vulnerable to population decline due to habitat loss. Especially in California, water shortage due to drought, agricultural use, municipal use, diversion for power, and other factors have played a major role in their decline. At the egg and juvenile stages they are negatively affected by sediment pollution, which can be caused by agriculture or as a consequence of wildfire.

Because of the complexity of salmonid conservation and the geographical range of their habitat, RCDs often work closely with public agencies, private landowners, and non-profit organizations to recover and enhance salmonid populations. The Inland Empire RCD works with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to inspire and educate the next generation about rainbow trout by having them take an active part in their life cycle. The Cachuma RCD led a local watershed coalition to create a plan for the Carpinteria Watershed which would meet the needs of everyone in their community.

Inland Empire RCD’s K-12 Trout in the Classroom Program

Inland Empire RCD is working in partnership with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) to educate K-12 grade youth through their Trout in the Classroom program. The RCD sponsors teachers from within their district boundaries to participate in this program and provide educational stations with the CDFW on topics like water quality, anatomy and dissection, wildlife, plants, aquatic entomology, casting, and the trout life cycle. There is a strong experiential learning component— instructors and their students set up an aquarium in the classroom, receive fish eggs under a special CDFW permit, and observe the fish as they hatch and develop. The experience culminates in a field trip to a local stream or river where the fish are released.

Youth practice with fishing rods for Trout in the Classroom field day

Line casting practice! Photo courtesy of the Inland Empire RCD

Through the experience of hatching fish eggs and coordinated activities, students see first-hand the value of aquatic environments, the balance that must be met to maintain and preserve California’s fisheries and aquatic habitats, and how their personal actions affect these valuable resources. The program is offered statewide in partnership with regionally-based CDFW Coordinators. Click this link to see an infographic of the RCD’s contributions through Trout in the Classroom. If you would like more information about Trout in the Classroom, please contact Jasmine Orozco Clark at jclark@iercd.org.

Cachuma RCD’s Plan for Successful Steelhead Recovery

Carpinteria Creek contains 15 square miles of high quality watershed running through the Cachuma RCD, identified as having the highest total habitat value and best restoration potential for endangered steelhead salmon among all South Coast streams. Knowing this, a group of private landowners, farmers, ranchers, nonprofit organizations, local, state, and federal agencies bonded together in the form of the Carpinteria Creek Watershed Coalition. In 2001, they created the Carpinteria Creek Watershed Plan, with six main goals:

    1. Self-sustaining Steelhead population in Carpinteria Creek
    2. Sustainable and functional riparian corridors from the top of the watershed to the ocean
    3. Persistent high water quality in all reaches of the creek
    4. Community wide participation toward collaborative watershed protection and management
    5. Public access to the creek corridor where appropriate
    6. Public education of the natural resources in the watershed

The Carpinteria Creek Watershed Plan was completed in 2005 by the Cachuma RCD and the Carpinteria Creek Watershed Coalition for CDFW. The plan was made possible through a grant from CDFW, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the California Coastal Salmonid Recovery Program. A patchwork of private and public land make up the length of the creek, and many stakeholders representing diverse interests had to come together for the planning process. The watershed coalition’s successful completion of the plan was a demonstration of the willingness of community members, conservationists, and public agencies to hear from each other, learn, and work together to find a solution that would be best for the Carpinteria Creek Watershed.

Scenic creek spot

Photo courtesy of the Cachuma RCD

“This plan is an important step for conserving the steelhead salmon populations in Santa Barbara. We were glad to work with local landowners, public agencies, and other stakeholders, to create this plan which was four years in the making. A community based, multi-stakeholder approach was the best way to ensure a realistic plan that will give the steelhead the best chance of thriving.”

— Anna Olsen, District Manager, the Cachuma RCD

RCD Collaborators