Trout Unlimited's Conservation Success Index User Guide

Publication Information

Trout Unlimited
Publication Date: 2007-09
Tags: WLCI Agency Report

“How do we best conserve trout and salmon?” Answering this fundamental question is critical for achieving Trout Unlimited’s vision within the next 30 years and is the underlying goal of the Conservation Success Index (CSI). The Conservation Success Index is a tool developed by Trout Unlimited (TU) to help conserve and restore trout and salmon through the characterization of native and wild salmonid status at the subwatershed scale. TU’s membership as well as interested individuals, other conservation groups, and agencies concerned with the conservation of coldwater fishes can use the CSI to answer the following questions and thereby inform future management and restoration efforts:
•    What is the range-wide status of each species?

•    What are the primary existing threats to populations and habitats?

•    How secure are populations and habitats from likely future threats?

•    Where, from a broad-scale perspective, should we focus our limited conservation

•    How does the status of multiple taxa compare and contrast across their respective

Most strategies for the long-term conservation of native salmonid populations build on the fundamental principles of conservation biology to protect the best remaining habitats and restore degraded areas by reestablishing habitat connectivity and integrity. Figure 1 illustrates the conceptual model of protect-reconnect-restore used by Trout Unlimited. For coldwater fishes, the high quality areas for protection are typically the high elevation headwaters while lower tributary reaches are often fragmented by diversions and dams that prevent access to the mainstem habitats and migratory corridors. These valley bottoms commonly have lower habitat quality due to land conversion and development but also hold the highest restoration potential.

The Conservation Success Index has been designed to support the application of the protect-reconnect-restore conceptual model to species conservation based on current conditions at the subwatershed scale. The CSI is being conducted on a species-by- species basis dependent on the completion of range-wide status assessments by state and federal managing agencies. As of August 2007, CSI analyses for seven native trout species and subspecies have been completed:
•    Eastern brook trout

•    Greenback cutthroat trout

•    Bonneville cutthroat trout

•    Westslope cutthroat trout

•    Yellowstone cutthroat trout

•    Snake River finespotted cutthroat trout

•    Colorado River cutthroat trout

Additional analyses are currently in varying stages of development for Apache trout, bull trout, brook trout in the Midwest’s Driftless Area, wild trout in Idaho, and our first anadromous species, coastal coho salmon. It is our intent to conduct a CSI analysis for all of North America’s native coldwater salmonids as well as select wild trout assemblages. The results will be used to support the determination of place-based priorities and strategies for TU’s local and national conservation programs taking into account current conditions as well as future impacts from climate change and energy development.

The CSI website, accessible from either the Trout Unlimited homepage ( or , contains extensive information on methods, data sources and results for each species analyzed as well as internet-based mapping applications and downloadable maps. There also is a brief summary of CSI results for each of the completed species.

This user guide has been prepared by Trout Unlimited to facilitate use of the website and interpretation and application of CSI results in the field. The guide includes the following materials:
1.    An overview of the CSI conceptual model and how Trout Unlimited is integrating it programmatically (Chapter 2).
2.    A description of the types of information located on the CSI website and how to find what you need as well as instructions on how to use the internet mapping tools (Chapter 3).
3.    Examples of CSI applications to Trout Unlimited’s work on energy development and climate change (Chapter 4).


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