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AP documents efforts to save fish threatened by US wildfires

Fish biologists release Rio Grande cutthroat trout into a creek near Amalia, N.M., Sept. 15, 2022; the fish were previously rescued from an area affected by wildfire some 750 miles away. Wildlife agencies in the southwestern U.S. consider missions like this essential as climate change brings more frequent and hotter wildfires, fueled by prolonged drought and tree-killing bug infestations. (AP Photo/Brittany Peterson)

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Multiformat field reporting and extensive research by a pair of AP journalists documented extraordinary efforts to save rare fish populations from the environmental effects of climate-fueled megafires across the western United States.

Environment writer John Flesher found New Mexico scientists who use a desperation tactic to save rare trout species: During the narrow window between fires and monsoons, they race to stun and net as many fish as possible from imperiled, isolated creeks, keeping the fish in tanks until they can be transferred to a suitable location.

While interviewing biologists about the complex effects of wildfires on fish and their habitat,Flesher learned details of a June rescue of Rio Grande cutthroat trout,New Mexico’s state fish and a candidate for the endangered list. Video journalist Brittany Peterson,a fellow Climate and Environment team member based in Denver,shot video and photos at the remote release site,750-miles away in Carson National Forest. Her on-the-ground reporting produced vivid photos and video,including scientists lugging 108 surviving trout in buckets,and underwater images as the fish were set free in a cool, clear stream.

The package played widely at news outlets in the western U.S. and beyond, while the distinctive presentation by photo editor Alyssa Goodman drew in readers and viewers.

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