Fish Slough Volunteer Patrol

Darren off to save the world

Standing against the blue sky, there are rock formations whose curvatures resemble works of abstract sculpture. Looking in the stream, there are silvery-blue Owens pupfish darting through the high grasses. Walking through the alkali meadows, there are rare plants unlike those found throughout the rest of the Owens Valley.

This is Fish Slough, a desert wetland. Wait a minute... a wetland in a desert? Can such a thing exist?

Located 5 miles north of Bishop on the boundary of the Great Basin and Mojave Deserts, Fish Slough is an island oasis, a rare area where water flows across the desert. Many species have come to depend on the Fish Slough area for a source of water; not only is it home to the endangered Owens Pupfish and the threatened Fish Slough Milk-vetch, it is also a key area for migrating birds. Unfortunately, today this ecosystem faces many threats from illegal off-road vehicle use, cattle grazing, and invasive species.

The story of the Owens Pupfish: This aggressive, 2-inch fish used to be found throughout the Owens River, from Mammoth Lakes to Lone Pine. Since, historically, there were no predatory fish to be found in the Pupfishs' habitat, the naïve pupfish was an easy target when game fish were later introduced. As water was diverted away from the Owens River, and as larger game fish began to feast on the pupfish, the Owens pupfish's habitat shrunk to a few pools in Fish Slough.

By 1969, they could only be found in one pool, a pool which was slowly evaporating away in the August heat. If it had not been for Phil Pister, a biologist from the Department of Fish and Game, who, bucket in hand, transferred the Owens pupfish to safety, it may very well have gone extinct.

Today, the Owens Pupfish can be found in a few pools in the Fish Slough Area of Critical Environmental Concern. Though relatively stable, their population remains vulnerable due to its limited distribution. Presently, the Owens Pupfish can be found in a few pools in BLM spring, in an area blocked by a fish gate which protects them from larger non-native fish.


Fish Slough Volunteer Patrol: Friends of the Inyo, along with the Bureau of Land Management, has helped organize the Fish Slough Volunteer Patrol, a group of volunteers who perform weekly monitoring in the Fish Slough Area of Critical Environmental Concern. Monitoring tasks include checking for OHV use off existing roads, clearing the fish gate to protect the habitat of the endangered Owens pupfish from non-native bass, and reporting vandalism at Native American petroglyph sites.

If you are interested in becoming a volunteer steward of this unique and fragile oasis, please email ian@friendsoftheinyo.org. The patrol is rotating, so volunteers commit to one day every few months.

Click on the excel sheet attachment to view the statistics of the Fish Slough Patrol.

 

 

 

 

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Office spreadsheet icon Volunteer_stats.xls0 bytes