“Has a bird ever hit a window at your house?” Kids’ hands shoot into the air and they eagerly stumble over each other’s stories of tragedy and valor involving bird window strikes.
Teton Conservation District staff members Morgan Graham and Phoebe Coburn spent the last two days teaching nearly 250 local fourth graders about bird window strikes at the Wildlife Expo, a field day involving ten stations centered around what kids can do to protect wildlife.
An estimated 365 to 988 million birds are killed annually by building collisions in the U.S. Over 99% of those mortalities occur at residences and low-rises. Though hard to measure, the average house kills between one and ten birds annually because birds don’t perceive windows as barriers. Glass reflects the sky and vegetation, making it look like familiar habitat to a bird. In other cases, glass looks completely transparent to a bird; think of a glass skywalk or a glass handrail on a balcony. In certain light, glass can also look black, just like a small gap in vegetation that a bird might fly through.
“What do you think you could do to prevent window strikes?” The kids are thoughtful for a brief moment and then shout out answers about putting tape, stickers, and curtains over windows. The kids wrapped up the lesson by creating their own original window artwork to prevent bird strikes.
You can mitigate bird window strikes with low expense preventative measures like decals or your own custom artwork, or pursue more expensive but permanent solutions like textured or patterned glass. Here are a few tips:
Apply decals or artwork on the outside of windows. Birds will fly through spaces smaller than the average handprint. Therefore, decals and tape are most effective when placed within four inches of each other across the span of the window.
Install textured glass, window film, facades, string, netting, screens, grilles, shutters, or exterior shades on windows.
Be aware that indoor house plants may look like habitat to a bird from the outside.
When planting and maintaining trees and bushes around your home, consider how they might create or block reflections in windows.
Many birds migrate at night and lights can disorient them and lure them towards urban areas. Turn off your outside lights at night and close your curtains, especially during the migration seasons from late August to mid-November, and from mid-March to mid-June. Plus, turning off unnecessary lighting saves electricity too!
If a bird is stunned after hitting a window, leave it alone and give it space to recover. Keep cats, dogs, kids and other things that could be a threat—or be seen as a threat—away from the bird. If you find an injured raptor, call the Teton Raptor Center at (307)203-2551.
If you have questions about solutions for your property, contact Teton Conservation District’s Wildlife Specialist, Morgan Graham, at (307)733-2110 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Teton Conservation District was recently awarded $20,000 to study rangeland health on public land grazing allotments. The grant came from the Wyoming Department of Agriculture’s Rangeland Health Assessment Program and is the fifth in a series of grants the conservation district has received since 2010 to collect data on rangeland health.
The goal of the program is to learn more about rangeland ecosystems and to build relationships between land managers and allotment permittees. Monitoring trends in the health of vegetation gives land managers an idea of whether the plant community is stable or shifting towards more or less desirable conditions. These trends inform decisions, such as stocking rates, prescribed burns, invasive species control, and other management strategies that support the land user’s goals and natural resource protection.
Teton Conservation District’s Land Resource Specialist, Robb Sgroi, said, “Conservation districts have deep roots in managing soil erosion and supporting best management practices for agriculture. Teton Conservation District appreciates the opportunity to work with land managers, livestock producers, and others to collect meaningful information to manage grazing on public lands.”
Over the next two years, the grant will fill gaps to meet Bridger-Teton National Forest’s objective of having at least one long-term vegetation monitoring site in each pasture (or subunit) of grazing allotments. The study will bring together resource specialists, including hydrologists, range conservationists, and wildlife biologists, to analyze resource conditions and goals. The program was developed with input from the Bridger-Teton National Forest, the University of Wyoming Extension, and five local livestock producers.
Today is Arbor Day! Do you have questions about trees? Robb Sgroi, our Land Resources Specialist, is a Certified Arborist through the International Society of Arboriculture! Here are some burning tree questions I had for Robb (terrible pun, I know).
Do you have any tricks for remembering how to tell the difference between pines, firs, and spruces?
As a kid raised by a father who studied forestry, the majority of our conversations centered around trees and birds. My dad would tell us “friendly fir, spiky spruce” was a rule of thumb. Firs have softer needles that are “friendly” to the touch, whereas spruce have spiky needles that aren’t friendly to touch. Arborists also point to spruce as sharp, single, short, and square.
Is my house at risk of ignition from a forest fire? What can I do to protect my home from a fire while still promoting forest health and wildlife habitat?
Teton Conservation District (TCD) offers Wildfire Risk Overviews to landowners, at no cost. These Overviews identify the conditions of the structure itself and vegetation, and voluntary recommendations are made that could reduce the potential of the structure igniting from wildfire. TCD offers financial incentives for implementing these recommendations. Wildfires are a natural disturbance which have an important role on the landscape. Our goal should not be to eliminate wildfire, but rather, to reduce our structure ignition potential. A great deal of preventative work can take place by landowners, to reduce risk to firefighters, landowners, and damage to structures.
My tree limbs and close to my roof and walls. Is this a fire risk?
TCD recommends pruning tree limbs at least 10 feet away from roof and wall surfaces, to reduce the potential for flames to directly contact your structure. However, a consultation with TCD on wildfire risk can help look into details. For example, it is recommended that not more than 25% of limbs be pruned in a single year. Plants need limbs and leaves to photosynthesize, and produce sugars!
When I pick a Christmas tree in Bridger-Teton National Forest with my family every December, we try to pick unhealthy looking “Charlie Brown” trees that might not make it anyways. Do you have any tips for picking Christmas trees in a way that promotes forest health?
Christmas trees?? I am looking forward to summer!
Following the land management agency regulations is the most important step in selecting a site and a tree. However, selecting a subordinate tree that is within the drip line, or crown area, of a dominant, larger tree, may be a good choice, by removing the tree that has lesser chance for robust growth.
I’ve seen trees with brown tops. Is that bad? What can be done about it?
Trees with brown tops could indicate some degree of damage or disease in the tree. It is not uncommon to see the dead or dying tops of trees to be altogether removed, a practice that arborists generally do not recommend. Topping a tree can introduce a point of entry for decay
Is there any technique to pruning trees that I should be aware of?
Pruning is an activity that, when done property, can support plant health. When done improperly, it can create a pathway for disease and decay. Hire a professional forester or arborist to support your projects, or contact us for simple advice on how to promote plant health care using good technique and tools.
Please reach out to Robb with any questions that relate to both arboriculture and wildfire risk reduction! His email address is email@example.com or you can call us at 733-2110.
By Phoebe Coburn
We might be enjoying the first spring days down here in the valley, but let me tell you, it’s still winter up in the mountains. A few days back, I joined Robb Sgroi, the Land Resources Specialist for Teton Conservation District, and Bob Comey, an avalanche forecaster for the Bridger-Teton Avalanche Center on an adventure off the backside Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.
Since 1993, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has sampled snowpack annually at over 50 sites in the Rocky Mountains—including seven sites in Teton County—to determine levels of nutrients and chemical constituents in the snow in sensitive higher elevation mountain watersheds. Known as the Rocky Mountain Snowpack Monitoring Program, the long-term study is the most expansive and comprehensive snowpack monitoring effort of its kind. Teton Conservation District supports the project financially and offers technical assistance on an annual basis. This year, our very own Robb Sgroi led the sampling.
We caught the pre-opening 8:00 tram, stopped for a transceiver check at the top, and skied down to a clearing in the trees of Targhee Woods. Robb has visited this exact same spot every winter for the past six years. The first thing we had to do was dig a snow pit all the way to the ground. An hour or so later, we hit dirt and the top of the roughly 9-foot pit was well above Robb’s head (he’s 6’4” for scale!). We started by measuring the snow temperature and snow water equivalent at 10 cm intervals. These measurements tell us if the snow is isothermal, meaning the snowpack is 0°C throughout and has therefore begun to melt and leach chemicals, making the data unreliable. The snowpack was not isothermal yet, so Bob Comey gave me a lesson on the different types of snow grains we were seeing. We then defined snowpack hardness, measured on a scale of what it takes to penetrate the snowpack. If only a knife can pierce the snow, it’s really hard, and then the scale moves up to a pencil, one finger, four fingers, and finally soft snow only takes a fist to punch through. For the most part, the snow got harder and wetter as we moved closer to the ground, except for the bottom 1/3 of the snowpack, which was a bit dryer than the middle section. Overall, it was pretty uniform snowpack that made us hopeful for some good spring skiing.
The last step in the procedure was to gather a snow sample by scraping a column of snow from top to bottom and sealing it in a sterile bag. Through dry and wet atmospheric deposition, precipitation and gravity deposit particles, aerosols, and gases in the atmosphere onto the ground. When that precipitation comes in the form of snow, the layers of snow store and illustrate what was deposited throughout the season. The high elevations here in Jackson do see rain, but most of the winter precipitation comes in form of snow—thereby showing us the chemistry of most of the annual precipitation in one convenient column of snow.
The results show dilute chemical concentrations of dissolved nitrate (NO3-), dissolved ammonium (NH4+), dissolved sulfate (SO42-), acid neutralizing capacity (ANC), and total mercury (Hg) across the Rocky Mountains. The five sites in Teton County in 2018 had dissolved ammonium concentrations that were roughly the same as the regional median, total mercury concentrations greater than the regional median, and dissolved nitrate and dissolved sulfate concentrations that were less than the regional median.
Through this program, long-term snowpack chemistry trends are being developed and we can use this to estimate “normal” levels, identify areas where atmospheric deposition of acidic compounds could be a concern, and monitor regional or local sources of pollution.
We’ve shipped this year’s sample off to USGS for analysis. We won’t hear back for some time on what this year’s snowpack was storing, but you can check out the data from 1993 to 2019 by clicking here.
By Elyce Gosselin, Natural Resources Technician
Carlin Girard, our Water Resource Specialist, and I spent a morning last week looking for aquatic bugs in Flat Creek with Mikenna Smith, a Lab and Program Manager for Teton County Weed & Pest District (TCWP). Mikenna focuses on studying and managing mosquito populations in the area. TCWP is known for controlling invasive species, like cheat grass, that push out native plants that wildlife depend on, and pests, like mosquitoes, that can be dangerous to human health. While controlling harmful species is an important part of TCWP’s mission, it’s not the only part of their job. Mikenna and other staff are also dedicated to maintaining a healthy ecosystem in other ways.
Last week, we were helping Mikenna collect a library of bugs. We collected macroinvertebrate samples (i.e., insect larva and other small aquatic organisms like snails and leeches) so Mikenna can build a reference library for TCWP. Reference libraries are collections of individual organisms that show what species or groups of organisms have been found in an area. Mikenna hopes that this will be a good educational tool for TCWP because it will show people how rich the aquatic environments here are. Aquatic macroinvertebrates are also great indicators of stream health. If water quality is good enough for a diverse number of sensitive invertebrate species to survive, it is likely that other important species, like fish, birds and humans, will be able to use that water too.
Flat Creek is listed by the Wyoming Department of Environmental quality as an impaired stream. This means that humans are having a significant negative impact on the stream in some way. In Flat Creek, a couple of the main problems are habitat degradation and stormwater runoff. Despite being an impaired stream, we collected a lot of interesting bugs! Carlin estimated that we collected over 1,000 bugs in the short time we spent sampling, including mayfly, stonefly, and caddisfly larva. These groups are important indicators of stream health, and you’ve probably heard of them if you fly fish too.
Although there are still large piles of snow around Jackson, it was clear from the birds and bugs in and around the creek that spring has arrived. A few adult midges and stoneflies had already emerged and were basking on the snow. We also saw an American Dipper—an aquatic songbird that feeds on aquatic macroinvertebrates—another great indicator of water quality!
By Phoebe Coburn
Journeys School ninth and tenth graders spent an afternoon last week learning about Karns Meadow. Carlin Girard, our Water Resource Specialist, gave an animated lesson on how the wetland system filters as much as 27% of the runoff from the town of Jackson. A primary source of that runoff is the mountain of snow piled up on the Fair Grounds. That snow has to go somewhere, and almost all of it, by design, melts into Karns Meadow.
Snow removed from the streets owned by the Town of Jackson is piled up and stored at the Fair Grounds all winter, and with it comes salts, metals, hydrocarbons and other pollutants deposited on the roadways. One source of these pollutants that we don’t often think about is our tires—as we drive around, our tires disintegrate bit by bit and are left on the roads.
The result is one filthy snow pile. But exactly how filthy? The Journeys School students were curious to see how much sediment is stored in the snow pile, so they took a five-gallon bucket of snow back to the classroom. Once the snow melted, Elyce Gosselin, the Natural Resources Technician here at Teton Conservation District, helped the students filter the meltwater in order estimate the total suspended solids (TSS) in the runoff. TSS is the dry-weight of the suspended particles (not including dissolved solids) in a sample of water. Based on the small amount of water filtered, Elyce estimated the TSS to be 2075.37 mg/L. For comparison, TSS in Flat Creek is usually less than 10 mg/L, depending on the site and the time of year. If you want to learn more about how Karns Meadow prevents contaminants from entering waterways, check out the cool video of Carlin below.
By Phoebe Coburn
I love this time of year. Last week I skied in a t-shirt, got a sunburn, and rode my bike. The willows have tiny little buds. The chickadees are singing. The roof is dripping. The creek is swelling. Ah, yes, the creek…do you know what else this time of year also brings? The possibility of flooding.
My parents live on Fish Creek Road, roughly two feet above the level of the creek. The last time our yard flooded was 1997, but my parents buy flood insurance every year because here’s the kicker about flooding: it’s kind of unpredictable. Teton County Emergency Management is one of your best flooding resources, and they provided much of the information below. Hopefully all this snow melts just slow enough that the creeks and rivers can handle the load, but in case of a rapid melt or a rain on snow event, here are some things you can do to prepare for flooding:
1. Do you have flood insurance? If you think you might need it, get on it right away because most flood insurance plans take 30 days to go into effect. You might consider taking photos of your home and property too, in case you do have to make a claim. You can learn more about flood insurance at www.floodsmart.gov.
2. Do you see water in weird places? I’ve seen some BIG puddles starting to form around town. If you see something like that, ask yourself what is blocking the water. Which way is downhill and why isn’t the water going there? Is there a blocked storm drain or culvert? Clear any ice jams or debris you have on your property that could dam water. You can also call Emergency Management or Public Works to report significant pooling water or flooding. Also, if you have a private well and you see water accumulating around your well head, that’s a sign you should test your drinking water before drinking it. You can pick up a $50 well test kit at the Teton Conservation District office at 420 W. Pearl Ave.
3. Where will you get information? Text TETON_WY to 888777 to sign up for Teton County Emergency Management’s Nixle notification service. You can also find flood tips on their Facebook page.
4. What will you do if it does flood? Sand and sandbags are available at the Town of Jackson Public Works Yard at 450 W. Snow King Ave. and at the Teton County Road and Levee Yard at 3190 Adams Canyon Dr. You have to fill, transport, and dispose of the sandbags yourself. Here is a good resource on how to use sandbags. Flooding can happen slowly or quickly. The water might be rising steadily and you’ll know a flood is coming, or a rain on snow even could cause flash flooding. No matter what the emergency is, I’ve been told over and over again that my family should have an “emergency kit.” I’ve never actually made one, but I’m actually going to this year. If we did have to leave our house in a hurry, I wouldn’t want to make a bad situation much worse by not having some potentially life-saving things like necessary medications, a way to purify water, and a way to stay warm. Here is a good resource for making a plan to stay safe during and after a flood.
Carlin Girard is Teton Conservation District’s Water Resource Specialist. You might run into him taking water samples from Fish Creek, measuring suspended sediment on Flat Creek, teaching fourth graders about native fisheries, or at Teton Conservation District while you’re picking up a well test kit. Originally from northwest Massachusetts, Carlin headed west at the age of 18 to attend college in Arizona. After working in Utah, Oregon, and eventually in Jackson for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department for a few years, he went to University of Wyoming for a MS in Aquatic Resource Management. Carlin met his wife, Amy, while working on a field project in Randolph, Utah in 2006. Carlin is teaching their two-year-old daughter, Astoria, to ice fish, ski, and chase off aggressive moose. Carlin is joyful, thoughtful, and just about the coolest staff member we have. If you want to get to know Carlin better, read on.
What is the best part of your job at Teton Conservation District?
I like that I am able to work on many different water related tasks. I enjoy bouncing between projects because it keeps things interesting for me. I also like the partnership aspect and the mandate that we have to work alongside of other entities.
What is the most challenging part of your job?
A challenge in my position is that solving the type of problems we are working on takes time. While I am able accept the timeframes for success, these timeframes can be very hard for partners, and those affected by water issues, to accept.
I heard you recently published a few academic papers. Can you tell me about them?
When I was accepted into my graduate program with the University of Wyoming USGS Cooperative Research Unit, a stipulation was that I publish the findings of my research in peer-reviewed journals. I began my position at TCD before I had even defended my graduate work, let alone received a diploma and published. That meant I had to finish writing my thesis, defend my thesis, and complete two publications on nights and weekends. It didn’t take me long to graduate, but the publications were a different story. The good news is that four and half years later, I have completed all of these requirements. The two papers I published were quite different, although both relate to Oil and Natural Gas Development effects to aquatic ecosystems in the Labarge Oil and Gas Field in Southwest Wyoming. One was focused on fisheries and aquatic habitat. The other was more related to water quality and a comparison of different methods to assess oil and gas related water quality issues. Long answer, but I am proud and relieved to be done.
Why did you decide to decide to go to school for/pursue a career in natural resource/water management?
Great question, especially if you know me because I have disliked (understatement) school since I was 10 years old. However, I am very passionate about natural resources and knew that a master’s degree would open doors for my career, both in title and because I wanted to improve my analytical skills. Prior to my degree, my work experience was balanced between terrestrial and aquatic sciences. I chose water because it tends to be more unifying and less controversial than wildlife management. Also, my wife has more experience than I do in wildlife fields, and I did not ever want to feel a need to compete with her for jobs.
What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?
My greatest achievement is my wonderful little girl. Throughout my life, I have often had jobs that required I work long days, and for hunting and fishing, I often find myself putting the mission before sleep and comfort. But, never has it been so worthwhile to commit so much energy to one thing. I have many passions and I like to stay busy, but for me, my family does come first.
What’s your family like?
My family is great. We get along very well, even though we are very different. My three siblings and mom and dad are extremely supportive of me, and have always encouraged me to think for myself and chart my own course. I do miss them, and even though we only have a small rental here in Jackson, I always prefer when my family is here and staying with us, compared to when they leave and go home. This is true for my mother-in-law as well, and my cousin Luke who is currently living with us until he finds a place of his own. My family are hardworking positive people who have been able to lead happy and productive lives regardless of our financial standing. I think we went through a lot early on, but those hardships helped us keep what is truly important at the forefront of our minds.
My wife Amy, two-year-old daughter Astoria, and puppy dog Chihiro are my favorite companions. And, while it isn’t always possible, I wish that we could do everything together.
What is the coolest wildlife encounter you’ve had?
This is a hard list to choose from, because I have had a lot. But, one experience that stands out in my memory was from the White Mountains in East-Central Arizona. We were on a backpacking trip when we encountered two researchers working on the Mexican Wolf Reintroduction Program. It was during a hail storm and temperatures plummeted. It turns out they had a wolf anaesthetized and were fitting a collar at a remote snare location, and they were very worried about the wolf’s body temperature because it had dropped due to the hail and temperature decrease. They did not have extra clothing to cover it, so they used a flannel shirt of mine. This was the first wolf I had ever seen, but what was so memorable was the very distinct smell that my flannel shirt took on for the remainder of the backpacking trip.
And, I have to mention a day of antler hunting when I found two huge winter kills and a backpack load of elk sheds. It almost killed me getting them out. It was just me and my dog and we followed grizzly tracks the entire day. I had taken my bicycle once the road became impassable due to snow. On the way out, my arms were so tired from carrying the skulls over my shoulders that I used my belt to tie them together, then hung my bear spray off of the horns. To get back to my bike, I had to do a pretty good high-water stream crossing. My pants fell right down, and I couldn’t pick them up until I got to the other side. I lashed the skulls to my bike, and pushed it the two miles through drifted snow to my truck. While some might not consider this a wildlife encounter, it was extremely memorable, and I will never forget how alert I was of my surroundings while walking that ridge.
Do you have a favorite fish?
I have many different favorite fish, depending on what you mean. I think my favorite fish to catch are steelhead, which are rainbow trout that are born in rivers and then move into the ocean to grow to adulthood before returning to their natal streams to spawn. They are very majestic, extremely powerful fish, each with their unique travels and life-history. Plus, they are about as big of a fish as you can land on a fly rod in rivers, so they make an excellent challenge. Fishing for steelhead is a lot like hunting, compared to fishing.
Halibut are my favorite fish to eat. Although locally, I prefer to eat lake trout because they taste good and are invasive in the Snake River system, so I feel good about keeping them.
If you could have a superpower, what would it be?
Maybe reading minds. I think it would be fun. I believe that people think very crazy things, but put strong filters on what they portray to be normal. I know I do at least. I think it would be fun to see what other people are actually thinking.
By Phoebe Coburn
On a subzero day in December, I joined Teton Conservation District staff members Carlin Girard, Elyce Gosselin, and Tom Segerstrom to check out some winter flooding just upstream of Smith’s on Flat Creek.
The creek overruns its banks during the coldest months of the year when ice dams block the flow. Frigid temperatures cause two kinds of problematic ice to form in Flat Creek: frazil ice and anchor ice. Frazil ice is created when turbulent water is supercooled (below 32⁰ F) and forms loose or disjointed ice chunks often seen floating down rivers and creeks on cold days. This type of jumbled ice stew is notorious for causing ice dams and flooding. Frazil ice can also solidify along creek bottoms—creating what’s called anchor ice—which causes flooding by displacing creek water upwards.
To help address winter flooding, the Flat Creek Water Improvement District (FCWID) formed in 2014. FCWID is a special district governed by a five-member Board of Directors who are under the supervision of the Teton Conservation District Board of Supervisors. The mission of FCWID is to explore and implement ways to prevent damage to private property due to winter flooding of Flat Creek with a commitment to honor water rights, represent the best interests of the district’s property owners and residents, while maintaining and improving water and habitat quality within the stream corridor.
Winter flooding is a naturally occurring phenomenon and has been recorded on the creek for decades. Flooding serves an ecological role, so the FCWID aims to protect private property from damage more so than they work to prevent flooding. With their members who own property along the creek, FCWID pursues best practices for preventing property damage according to their Emergency Wintertime and Spring Runoff Action Plan. During extreme winter flooding events, FCWID mitigates ice buildup by manually removing ice from the creek using machinery and by advising on the use of thaw wells that pump relatively warm ground water into the creek. They use machinery as a last resort as it presents consequences for the creek’s ecosystem and is a significant financial cost to FCWID members. Property owners along the creek also pursue more proactive measures such as sand bags, berms, and elevated landscaping. FCWID is actively researching ice formation and alternative mitigation tools, hoping to minimize disturbance to the creek.
Though this winter may seem relatively mild for the old-timers in town, it’s the worst winter for flooding on Flat Creek that FCWID Chair Bill Wotkyns can remember. It’s hard to say why this is, but FCWID and Teton Conservation District hope to gain a better understanding of when, where, and under what circumstances ice forms in the creek through an ongoing study with Alder Environmental, the University of Wyoming, and Colorado State University. To see the findings of this study released in August of 2018, click here.
On the particularly chilly day I went to check out winter flooding on Flat Creek for myself, I was dressed like any local Jackson kid would be: woefully underdressed. After a mere minute or two of walking along the creek near Smith’s, I managed to fall through some crusty looking frazil ice up to my knees. Oops. When the temperature is well below zero, falling into water will trigger anyone’s fight or flight instinct. Mine was flight. I post-holed my way out of creek and within seconds of reaching solid land, my not-so-trusty clogs instantly fused to my feet. I waited in the car for the rest of the field trip. Carlin was quick to point out the moral of the story: don’t bring clogs to a flood fight.
By Phoebe Coburn
Teton Conservation District staff spent a day in the field last week with Kellen Lancaster, who represents Area IV (which includes Teton County) on the Wyoming Water Development Commission (WWDC). Kellen is one of ten commissioners appointed by the governor to “ensure the delivery of water to Wyoming citizens in an economical and environmentally responsible manner.” Kellen is a resident of Afton, husband, and father of six. He brings a wealth of experience having served on other boards, and through his experience owning and managing a sand, gravel, and rock crushing business in Star Valley.
From dawn until dusk, Kellen visited five of six proposed water projects in Teton County that he and his fellow commissioners will vote on funding in March. The six applicants are seeking funding through the Small Water Project Program (SWPP), which is a grant program administered by the WWDC in partnership with sponsoring entities across the state, including Teton Conservation District. SWPP aims to improve watershed condition and function, and benefit wildlife, livestock, and the environment. Past projects have included the construction and rehabilitation of small reservoirs, wells, springs, wetlands, solar platforms, irrigation works, windmills, and other related efforts.
After spending a few hours in the field with Kellen, his genuine interest in and dedication to serving Wyoming was apparent. He paid great attention to each proposed project and asked thoughtful questions. If the commission does choose to fund any of the six proposed projects in Teton County, Teton Conservation District may also provide additional funding, depending on the project. Here is a summary of each proposed project:
Spread Creek Irrigation Rehabilitation and Fish Passage: In 2010, the crumbling Spread Creek dam, located just outside Grand Teton National Park on Bridger-Teton National Forest lands, was removed. This partnership effort led by the Trout Unlimited Wyoming Water Project opened up over 50 miles of Spread Creek to migratory Snake River cutthroat trout for the first time in over 50 years. Since the dam was removed and replaced with a fish passage-friendly diversion structure and new water delivery system, project partners have documented successful fish movement through the new diversion. But they have also documented fish entrained in the Spread Creek irrigation system. The proposed Phase 2 of the Spread Creek Fish Passage project will reduce future losses of migratory cutthroat trout in the irrigation system by installing a fish screen that will return entrained fish to Spread Creek, and will stabilize and improve the diversion structure (which was damaged by flooding in 2011) for more reliable water delivery for irrigators.
Game Creek Irrigation System Improvement: This project aims to improve irrigation efficiency, stream function, and fish passage by constructing a permanent irrigation structure and headgate on a Wyoming Game and Fish Department property used to pasture horses critical to the job duties of the South Jackson Game Warden. Snake River cutthroat trout are abundant in Game Creek below the proposed project site and would have historically accessed habitats further upstream. In order for the fish to reach those upstream habitats again, connectivity during key time periods such as spawning, is of the utmost importance. The Wyoming Department of Transportation has already made substantial investments downstream in Game Creek that will allow for fish passage. This project will complement that component of the South Highway 89 reconstruction project and will showcase a working relationship between aquatic stewardship and agriculture.
Jensen Canyon Headgate Rehabilitation: In the spring of 2007, a debris flow event wiped out a diversion structure at the bottom of Jensen Canyon. The proposed replacement structure will divert the water from Jensen Creek into three separate waterways, which supply water to fifteen separate residential and agricultural uses downstream. This water project supports the preservation and stewardship of open space and agricultural heritage by improving the reliability of delivering adjudicated water rights to their corresponding agricultural and residential lands. Further, the public will benefit from continued agriculture and preserved views, and the project will lessen risk of downstream flooding of residences and roads.
South Flat Creek Fish Passage and Channel Restoration: This project demonstrates how goals of restoring aquatic ecosystems and persevering working ranch lands can intersect. This first phase of this project involves channel realignment of Flat Creek on Lockhart Cattle Company land. Construction of the new channel will restore ecological function by increasing bank stability, reducing erosion, and improving the availability and quality of native fish and riparian habitat. The project will also improve water quality through restoration of wetlands which filter sediments, nutrients, and pollutants.
Fall Creek Ranch Water Supply Improvement: Fall Creek Ranch, a remote subdivision surrounded by Bridger-Teton National Forest, plans to develop a water supply for fire suppression and irrigation purposes. The 3.66-acre grass pasture to be irrigated will be used to pasture livestock and will provide an irrigated ‘safe’ zone on three sides of one of subdivision’s the structures, reducing the risk of wildfire reaching the structure. This project will provide a source of fire suppression water not only for Fall Creek Ranch, but for Redtop Meadows and surrounding public lands as well.
7 Mile Ranch Rural Community Fire Suppression: This project serves to increase reliable fire suppression water storage and supply for a rurally located residential property and surrounding public land. The landowners plan to develop a surface pond and water delivery infrastructure, including a pump leading to pressurized fire hydrants. This parcel is located within Teton County’s Wildland Urban Interface mapped zone and fire suppression apparatus response time to this site is at least one hour by vehicle. This area has the potential to support a wildland fire posing a direct threat to homes, utilities, transportation corridors, communication sites, and other capital improvements.
If you have questions about SWPP grants or would like to consider applying for funding next year, contact Robb Sgroi at firstname.lastname@example.org or (307) 733-2110.
Meet Elyce Gosselin, the Natural Resources Technician for Teton Conservation District. She holds degrees in Ecology and Conservation Biology and Mathematical Biology from the University of Idaho. She’s also on the Jackson Hole Juggernauts (our local roller derby league) where she’s known as “Bats Hit Crazy”.
Elyce loves bats. Before joining Teton Conservation District last fall, she worked in Grand Teton National Park studying the impacts of light pollution on bats. She has also traveled through the southern Ecuadorian Andes studying the impacts of land-use change on bat and bird communities.
Elyce is not just a bat expert though, she has evaluated elephant behavior and movement patterns in Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique, deployed National Geographic “Crittercams” and GPS collars on elephants, cape buffalo and antelope, investigated the impacts of phenological shifts on Arctic-breeding shorebirds and waterfowl in Alaska, compared the molecular and morphological fecal DNA sampling methods for coyotes, studied the impact of Owyhee harvester ant nests on sagebrush-steppe vegetation, completed Pygmy rabbit captures and burrow surveys, and captured and collared elk and mule deer in the West. Needless to say, she is just about the coolest and smartest staff member we have. Oh, and she speaks Spanish and some Portuguese too. Her resume is unbelievably impressive for being only 24, but don’t be intimidated; Elyce is humble, friendly, and always has a smile on her face.
Elyce grew up in Boise and she’s loving life in Jackson. She is learning to ski, mountain bike, and navigate Jackson’s complicated mail delivery system.
Chronic wasting disease (CWD) has been creeping towards Teton County for years. Now that it has officially reached our valley, it can feel like it’s too late and there’s nothing to be done. However, here are some things YOU can do (and not do!) to prevent the spread of CWD, and give deer, moose, and elk their best chance of survival through the winter.