The Saratoga Sun -

Passage granted


Two Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) projects have received funding from the Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resources Trust (WWNRT). The Big Creek Fish Passage project, which will not begin until fall 2017 at least, received $105,000 toward their total project cost of $323,666. Another, the TFB (Taylor, Faerber, Brooks) Aspen project in the Sierra Madre mountain range, was awarded $30,000 of the total project cost of $134,400.

The Big Creek Fish Passage project is a partnership between WGFD, Trout Unlimited, Big Creek Ranch and A Bar A Ranch. According to Christina Barrineau, WGFD Aquatic Habitat Biologist, researchers have determined that a diversion structure is preventing fish from accessing over 50 miles of water in Big Creek. They have learned that only adult brown trout could move over the structure during a particularly high amount of water, and the project would focus on enhancing fish passage for brown and rainbow trout to move into that waterway for spawning. There are some resident trout in Big Creek, Barrineau said.

A fishery should have deep diversity, and anything that allows for greater passage and spawning will lead to a more diverse population. White sucker and long nose sucker fish could potentially be helped by this project as well, but the focus is on the trout. The diversion structure has been in place for many, many years, though it was redone about 10 years ago. In order to remedy the issue caused by the structure, contributions have been made by Big Creek Ranch, National Resources Conservation Service, WGFD, WWNRT, Saratoga-Encampment-Rawlins Conservation District, U.S. Forest Service, Big Creek Ranch, A Bar A Ranch and Trout Unlimited.

The TFB Aspen project is not just about aspen, but also about mountain shrubs and riparian habitat, according to Katie Cheesbrough, WGFD Saratoga Terrestrial Habitat Biologist. Still in its planning stages, WGFD knows the project will take place on three different private lands: two of which are about 13 miles northwest of Encampment, and another six miles southwest of Encampment. Aspen communities are critical for mule deer and summer ranges, Cheesbrough said, and this project will focus on 215 acres of aspen stands along with 145 acres of mixed mountain shrub work and two acres of riparian habitat work.

The aspen are vital around the Platte Valley, and many stands are old and decadent without the disturbance needed to cause regeneration. This could cause the populations to die out. There is a natural conifer succession that could overtake the stands due to the lack of natural fires. This work will help to restore the aspen to the glory needed to provide the critical habitat for mule deer.

For this project, funding has been awarded or committed from Platte Valley Habitat Partnership, WWNRT, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and the Mule Deer Foundation, with funding approval pending from Wyoming Landscape Conservation Initiative.

In a press release from WWNRT, the trust outlined 39 projects in 16 Wyoming counties that had been awarded funding, totaling more than $2 million. According to WWNRT chairman Kim Floyd, the primary focus of applications in this allocation period was “continued river restoration, fish passage and irrigation improvements, and a new emphasis on cheatgrass eradication.” Along with that were wetland enhancements, invasive species management, fence modification to facilitate wildlife migration, and improvements to aspen and sagebrush habitats.


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