Montana’s Swan Valley is a stronghold for native fish.  Both Bull Trout and Westslope Cutthroat Trout call this watershed home.  Bull Trout are listed as an Endangered Species, but the situation with Westslope Cutthroat Trout is less clear.

In an effort to conserve existing populations of Westslope Cutthroat Trout, Northwest Connections is leading the Swan Lands Coordinating Committee's Native Fish Subcommittee in an effort to identify "conservation populations" which consist of genetically pure cutthroat.

To the best of our knowledge, we believe that genetically pure Westslope Cutthroat Trout today are only thriving in about 20% of their historic stream habitat in the Swan River watershed, mirroring declines rangewide. The survivors live in small, fragmented populations in headwater streams and are no longer considered one large, interconnected "metapopulation." 51% of historic cutthroat habitat in the Swan is occupied by hybrids. Westslope Cutthroats are now a federal "species of special concern" and periodically have been considered for listing for protection under the Endangered Species Act.


Northwest Connections is catalyzing a wide range of partners to work together to assess the distribution and abundance of these fish for managers. We are working in partnership with the Flathead National Forest, the National Forest Foundation, local anglers, and Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks to gather genetic information and inform the conservation strategy to protect and restore these native fish.

Current status of cutthroat trout in the Swan Valley (PDF)


IMAGE CREDIT: Top - Courtesy of U.S. Geological Survey/photo by Johnny Armstrong