Historic California Fish Hatchery Transferred to Native American Tribe

February 8, 2024

After years of discussion, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) transferred more than 40 acres of the historic Mount Whitney Fish Hatchery in Inyo County to the Fort Independence Indian Community. The community is recognized as one distinct separate tribal government of the four Owens Valley Paiute Tribes. The no-cost transfer marked the CDFW’s first ever land return to a California tribe.

Inyo-Mono Title Co. insured the land return to the tribe. The historic hatchery structures, residences and other buildings cover approximately 19 acres. The remaining 21 acres have native plant vegetation including shrubland, and oak and willow riparian habitat adjacent to Oak Creek. Willow flycatcher, a special-status species, is known to use property as habitat.

“Water is an integral part of Paiute culture, history and social structure,” said Tribal Chair Carl Dahlberg. “Our Indigenous Paiute members settled on the banks of the Oak Creek since time immemorial and these lands have always been sacred to our people. Our worldview values the delicate ecosystem which connects us to this land which traditionally was a cultivation site for indigenous plants, such as taboose and nahavita. This property is inextricably intwined into who we are as Paiute people and we hope to bring this knowledge and history back to the community through the preservation of the Mount Whitney Fish Hatchery.”

Owned by CDFW since 1916, the hatchery historically produced different trout species for planting until whirling disease was discovered there in 1984. Because the disease does not infect eggs, production of trout eggs continued there until 2007. In July 2008, the property was severely damaged from flood and mudslide and temporarily closed to the public. An interpretive center operated by the Friends of Mount Whitney Fish Hatchery remains open today. The tribe is committed to protecting wildlife habitats and native plants, using the resources prudently and making the property open to all.

Contact ALTA at 202-296-3671 or [email protected].