Who nose what's in our hot springs?

By Elyce Gosselin, Natural Resources Technician for Teton Conservation District

The view from Huckleberry Hot Springs.  Naegleria fowleri  can be found downstream of hot springs, as well.

The view from Huckleberry Hot Springs. Naegleria fowleri can be found downstream of hot springs, as well.

Jackson locals and tourists alike love to spend time in the hot springs around here, but what other organisms are spending time in those springs? A great team of hydrologists from the United States Geologic Survey (USGS) Wyoming-Montana Water Science Center visits several times a year to try to figure out exactly that.

In July, I spent a couple of days with Peter Wright, Elliott Barnhart, and Megan Moss from the USGS collecting water samples at a few local hot springs. We visited Granite Hot Springs south of Jackson, as well as Polecat and Huckleberry Hot Springs in Grand Teton National Park, to sample for pathogens. Escherichia. coli (E. coli) and Naegleria fowleri (N. fowleri) DNA have been detected in the hot springs in the park. While some E. coli cause no harm to humans, some are pathogenic and can cause symptoms such as diarrhea when accidentally ingested. Naegleria fowleri, on the other hand, is rare but can be deadly.

This diagram created by the CDC shows the different life stages of  Naegleria fowleri .

This diagram created by the CDC shows the different life stages of Naegleria fowleri.

Naegleria fowleri is an amoeba that can be found in warm freshwater. The amoeba prefers relatively high temperatures so it is commonly found in water bodies like hot springs, natural pools and ponds in warm environments, or even untreated water at water parks. When living in a water body, N. fowleri feeds on bacteria and yeast cells, so what makes it dangerous to humans? Well, if it somehow enters a human’s nose, N. fowleri can travel to the brain where it switches from harmlessly feeding on bacteria to feeding on brain tissue and immune cells. Unfortunately, this is difficult to diagnose because it can take days for symptoms to present and it’s highly rare. The result is very low rates of survival once infected.

Polecat hot springs in Grand Teton National Park.

Polecat hot springs in Grand Teton National Park.

How worried should we be about this brain-eating amoeba in Teton County? Well, its DNA has been detected in Huckleberry Hot Springs, Polecat Hot Springs, and Kelly Warm Spring in Grand Teton National Park. This doesn’t necessarily indicate that the amoeba is currently alive in the hot springs, but it does indicate that it has at least been present in the hot springs relatively recently. While a N. fowleri infection is unlikely, the previous park superintendent David Vela said that he would “highly encourage individuals to avoid contact with these waters”. If you do find yourself or your children lounging in some hot springs, the best way to prevent an infection is to avoid splashing, dunking, or any other activities that could potentially cause water to go up your nose.

Airport Completes Stormwater Filtration System

The Jackson Hole Airport Board is holding a Ribbon Cutting Ceremony on September 3rd at 2:00 pm at the Airport to celebrate the completion of the Underground Stormwater Detention and Filtration System. The new system will capture stormwater runoff from both the operational and public areas of the Airport. The system is designed to handle a 100-year storm event and will be the largest Advanced Drainage System in Wyoming. Governor Mark Gordon will be giving a public address and the Airport will be fueling planes with sustainable aviation fuel provided by Avfuel, a global supplier of aviation fuels and services.

The Jackson Hole Airport Board was able to support this voluntary project with the generosity of Teton Conservation District’s $60,000 grant. Carlin Girard, Teton Conservation District’s Water Resource Specialist said, “This is far beyond any local stormwater project from a size and treatment perspective, the level of treatment and quality of treatment is outstanding. Most systems plan for a 20-year storm event, the Airport went above and beyond by planning for a 100-year storm event.”

“Preserving this land and our environment are instrumental in recognizing that the Jackson Hole Airport is the only commercial service airport within a national park.  Projects like this one, along with many other environmental initiatives undertaken by the Airport Board, reflect the responsibilities that come from operating within this unique ecosystem. We are dedicated to being stewards of Grand Teton National Park,” stated Rick Braun, Jackson Hole Airport Board President.

Runoff will be fed into large chambers where it will be filtered through a biologically active “filter layer-cake” that builds up in the system over time, then through a layer of geotextiles, and finally through a stone foundation before being pumped back to the surface, minimizing sediment and hydrocarbons from entering the environment.

This project expands upon previous water quality efforts at the airport, including groundwater monitoring and installation of a Glycol recovery system. Teton Conservation District has worked extensively with the Town of Jackson to improve stormwater treatment and protect water quality, but this is the first time the District has worked with the Airport on stormwater. “It’s much larger than any stormwater project we’ve supported in the past,” Girard said. “We hope to use this project as an example of the types of partnerships we encourage, and we are looking to support projects like this that go above and beyond to protect natural resources.”

To further advance the Airport’s eco-conscious initiatives, an aircraft will be fueled with sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) provided by Avfuel, a global supplier of aviation fuel and services, on September 3rd and 4th. SAF is a blend of conventional Jet A/A-1 fuel and synthetic blending agents, which meets the specifications of petroleum-based fuels (ASTM D1655). The final blended SAF product burns cleaner and provides a significant reduction in overall carbon emissions across its lifecycle, from production to flying. 

What kind of lawn fertilizer should I buy?

By Robert Russell, Trout Unlimited and Teton Conservation District Intern

Robert with a “Trout Friendly Certified” lawn sign.  Click here to certify your lawn and learn about your eligibility for a sign.

Robert with a “Trout Friendly Certified” lawn sign. Click here to certify your lawn and learn about your eligibility for a sign.

Had you asked me to name a single brand of fertilizer last week, I may have responded with a tentative, “Miracle-Gro?” However, I can now additionally name Scotts, Alaska, Espoma, Dr. Earth, Down to Earth, Jobe’s, and Whitney Farms. The only major change between last week and this week was becoming an intern at Teton Conservation District. Through this fantastic opportunity, I have been able to learn about, participate in, and help expand the Jackson Hole Clean Water Coalition’s (an entity consisting of various local conservation groups) Trout Friendly Lawns program, which urges local lawn-owners to become mindful of their ecological impact, particularly on local watersheds. A major component of this project is reducing over-fertilization, as excessive amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (N-P-K) in waterways can damage the ecosystem, wildlife, and humans by encouraging an overgrowth of algae, biologically contaminating the water. 

In an effort to aid the community, Teton Conservation District needed to be able to understand where organic, low nitrate, slow release, and other forms of fertilizer are sold in Jackson Hole… a perfect job for the intern. So, spreadsheet at the ready, I was whisked off to Ace Hardware to begin data collection. Two and a half hours later, Phoebe Coburn (the conservation district’s Communications Specialist and my supervisor) came to collect me in fears that I had been lost, arrested, or completely fried my brain. However, the only tragedy I had experienced was that there were far more types of fertilizer than I could have ever anticipated. So, after an evening of mental preparation, I was ready to finish the undertaking. My next day composed of the same tasks of registering name, price, weight, and N-P-K ratio of all available fertilizers; however, the task had now expanded to four stores in both Wilson and Jackson. Personally, through this difficult yet engaging project, I learned far more about fertilizer and other plant supplements through this project. For example, I learned that there are many fertilization options that have low N-P-K ratios, and that the valley has ready access to many of these options. When you are looking for an environmentally friendly fertilizer, look towards the bottom of the bag for a series of three numbers (for example: 20-27-5  or 5-4-5 ). These numbers indicate the N-P-K ratio. To comply with Trout Friendly Lawn practices, find a bag with low numbers, or a bag that says organic or slow release.  Also follow the application instructions carefully and don’t apply more than two pounds of nitrogen for every 1000 sq. feet of lawn per year. Note that two pounds of nitrogen is not the same as two pounds of fertilizer (you might have to do a little mental math). Also, don’t fertilize within 20 feet of water. To learn more about Trout Friendly Lawns practices, and to certify your lawn as “Trout Friendly” click here.

During my fertilizer research endeavor,  I also learned that many people are unaware of this issue, and thus organic or slow release fertilizer options are more frequently sidelined for other cheaper and quick-acting options. Yet, the kind and determined faces at both the JH Clean Water Coalition and Teton Conservation District will continue to publicize the issue, and urge our town to support its waterways, and thus ourselves.

Healthy Horses, Happy Owners, and Clean Water

Alayne Blickle of Horses for Clean Water. Photo courtesy of Alayne Blickle.

Alayne Blickle of Horses for Clean Water. Photo courtesy of Alayne Blickle.

Any horse owner could tell your that a big part of caring for their horses is managing manure and pests and dealing with drainage and runoff (i.e. mud). A well-maintained horse property is not only great for horses, it’s also good for water quality. Recognizing this mutual benefit between horses and water, Teton Conservation District and the Jackson Hole Clean Water Coalition hosted a series of free workshops at the Teton County Fair last week on basic horse keeping, simple solutions for pest control, and mud and manure management.

Alayne and Teton Conservation District staff visiting Crane Creek Ranch.

Alayne and Teton Conservation District staff visiting Crane Creek Ranch.

The workshops were led by Alayne Blickle, a life-long equestrian, educator, and director of Horses for Clean Water, an internationally acclaimed program that works to care for horses and land in ways that are gentle on the environment, healthy for horses, and easy for horse owners. In addition to the workshops, Alayne visited five different ranches and corrals across the valley to talk with local horse owners and learn about horse keeping challenges that are unique to Jackson Hole—such as snow load, watering horses in freezing conditions, and mud season. Carlin Girard, the Water Resources Specialist for Teton Conservation District said, “Alayne brought forward many good ideas that I believe are transferable throughout our community, which benefit horses, their owners, and our water and land. Because owning horses is so much work, it seems the sweet spot is where gains in chore efficiency also benefit land and water.”

Teton Conservation District is offering funding for corral owners to implement corral improvements or strategies that decrease runoff, improve horse health, and support water quality. To learn more about funding opportunities, email info@tetonconservation.org or call 733-2110.

Frogs are Ribbiting!

By Phoebe Coburn, Communications Specialist for Teton Conservation District

How many Columbia spotted frogs can you spot in this photo? They’re recognizable by the cream color around their mouths.

How many Columbia spotted frogs can you spot in this photo? They’re recognizable by the cream color around their mouths.

When you’re doing any kind of wildlife survey, it’s not great protocol to shout when you find the animal you’re looking for. But when I was invited to do amphibian surveys last week, I couldn’t help but shriek whenever I spotted a frog or toad, “Look! Look! Morgan! Another one! Morgan! I found another one!” What can I say, I find frogs “ribbiting” (like riveting, get it?).

Elyce Gosselin, Teton Conservation District’s Natural Resource Technician, going the extra mile for amphibian surveys.

Elyce Gosselin, Teton Conservation District’s Natural Resource Technician, going the extra mile for amphibian surveys.

Morgan, the GIS & Wildlife Specialist for Teton Conservation District, is much better at keeping his cool around cold-blooded creatures. I guess that’s why they keep me in the office and Morgan gets to go look for wildlife. Thankfully, Morgan was patient with me, and the frogs and toads didn’t seem to mind my enthusiasm too much.

Morgan has collected data on local amphibians for the past three years as part of the Rocky Mountain Amphibian Project. The statewide program works with agencies, organizations, and citizen scientists to track regional amphibian populations. Here in Wyoming, we have five frogs, six toads, and one salamander. In Teton County, common species you might spot are boreal chorus frogs, Columbia spotted frogs, western boreal toads, and tiger salamanders. These species have adapted to the winters here by hibernating at the bottom of deep ponds or streams that don’t freeze, or they burrow into the ground where the temperature is always above freezing.

A boreal chorus frog hides at the edge of a steam. Their color can range from tan to green.

A boreal chorus frog hides at the edge of a steam. Their color can range from tan to green.

Amphibians are struggling worldwide; forty-one percent of all amphibian species are either extinct or threatened with extinction. Known threats to amphibians regionally include chytrid fungus, invasive predators, habitat loss and fragmentation, and chemicals and pollutants such as pesticides and herbicides. In past years, Morgan has swabbed frogs and toads right here in Teton County for chytrid fungus, a disease that causes lethargy, behavior changes, weight loss, and red splotching or sloughing of skin. Ultimately, the disease can kill our frog and toad friends by inhibiting their ability to breathe through their skin. In 2017, Morgan found that of the 28 toads and frogs he swabbed for chytrid in Teton County, 15 individuals tested positive for chytrid. Across the state, nine of Wyoming’s twelve amphibian species have tested positive.

A western boreal toad hops towards a nearby wetland. These toads are distinguishable by the light colored line that runs down the middle of their back.

Chytrid fungus is invisible to the human eye. The fungus can’t survive outside of water and sunlight kills it, so all you have to do to reduce the risk of spreading chytrid is dry out your boots and equipment in direct sunlight between trips to a wetland, lake, pond, creek or river. Take this into consideration especially when you’re moving from one watershed or drainage to another. Amphibians should never be moved from their habitat and it’s best to just avoid touching them all together because things like lotions, sunscreens, soap, and oil on our hands can harm them. But, if you can’t help it, shouting with excitement doesn’t seem to bother them.

“If you can’t beat ‘em, eat ‘em!”

Omnivore, herbivore, carnivore…invasivore? Eating invasive species is one way of sticking it to troublesome plant and animal intruders. The University of Illinois has been serving Asian carp in student dining halls, divers in the Florida Keys are going after lionfish,  and a community of invasivores post recipes for everything from perennial pepperweed to wild board.

When we accidentally introduce a non-native species into an environment where it doesn’t have natural predators, it has an unfair advantage over native plants and animals. To learn about a few invasive species of concern and how to prevent their spread, check out this piece titled “Humans as Vector” that we wrote for Green Matters.

We encourage you to prevent the spread of invasive species by cleaning your gear before and after recreating, planting native species, and by simply getting to know your weeds so you can spot infestations.

Another approach people have taken is to eat invasive species. Remember, don’t eat things you can’t identify, don’t eat things that have been sprayed with an herbicide or chemical, and eat things at your own risk. Carlin Girard, the Water Resources Specialist here at Teton Conservation District, shares his take on eating lake trout below. We also included a few more enticing recipes we found online. If you have some of your own invasive recipes you’d like to share, send them to info@tetonconservation.org.

A freshly caught lake trout.

A freshly caught lake trout.

Carlin’s Lake Trout Special

I enjoy fish when it is prepared well, and notice very quickly if it is not. In order to have the best experience eating lake trout, you need to start by keeping your catch cold and cleaning it as soon as you get home.

Lake trout ready to be cleaned and filleted.

Lake trout ready to be cleaned and filleted.

Per my mother-in-law’s guidance, the trick to cleaning a lake trout (or any other fish for that matter), for the perfect fish is as follows. Begin by filleting. Once I have fillets, I take off the skin, and then remove the pin bones with a delicate thin slice on each side of these pesky little bones. If you don’t know where they are and you can’t see them, you can feel them with your finger in the upper third on the side of the fillet facing into the fish by running your finger in a tail-wise direction. The bones angle towards the outside of the fish in an upward direction. The final step is removing all (ALL) tissue that is different than the normal muscle color. This includes silver from the inside of the skin, and all of the red or brown muscle tissue that is positioned under the lateral line. Now, you have a sushi grade piece of late trout to cook as you like.

I prefer two different ways of cooking this delicious meat: 1) make healthy fish sticks by cutting them into strips, or 2) use skewers to hold the meat together and grill them.

1) For healthy fish sticks, I cut them into strips to a size of my liking. Similar size is good so they cook at a similar rate. I often season the fish directly before I bread them – lemon pepper or white pepper blends add a nice touch. Then, I use a double breading technique, whereby I dip the fish into flour (or pancake mix for a sweeter flavor), then egg, then breading. Breading can vary a lot. I like to use an Italian Seasoning breading myself, but whatever works. Sometimes I add finely crushed walnuts and coconut to my breading for some extra flavor. Now for the healthy cooking departure. Of course, you can fry these fish sticks in vegetable oil. However, they also cook very well by dabbing them with olive oil and broiling them. Depending on the size of the fish sticks, they can cook very fast under the broiler, 4-5 minutes, flip, oil again, and 2 more minutes. When they start to get crispy and brown, check if they are done by breaking one open to assure they are the same color all the way through. If you’re in the mood, make some homemade tartar sauce by mixing mayo and relish (or chopped up pickles) to flavor.

Skewered lake trout fillets.

Skewered lake trout fillets.

2) Cooking fish without the skin can be a bit tricky, because it tends to fall apart. That’s why I often use skewers and even put the skewered fish fillets in a fish basket on the grill. If the fish sticks to the grill it will want to fall apart, but there are advantages of cooking it this way. The main one being that once you have your boneless, skinless, sushi quality filet, it will taste as good as any marinade you create. I like a teriyaki, because it is a touch sweet and spicy. With fresh ingredients, I like to make my own spin on teriyaki with some soy sauce, sesame oil, shredded ginger and garlic, pepper (I like white pepper blends a lot), and honey or maple syrup. The beauty of fish marinades is that they only take a few minutes to really absorb, especially once fish are cleaned to the extent described here. 20 minutes seems to be plenty. If anything, I have over seasoned fish this way, and while lemon and soy sauce are excellent in fish marinades, too much can really take over. Grilling also doesn’t take long and the crispy ends are my favorite bites

There is something very rewarding about spending a day on the lakeshores in Grand Teton National Park, fishing, eating a delicious harvest, and doing some native fish conservation.

A few more “invasivore” recipes for inspiration:

Smoked Lake Tout*

Smoked Lake Trout and Smoked Lake Trout Rillette*

White-Tailed Burgers**

Canada Goose Pastrami**  

Pan Fried Dandelion Greens with Tomatoes

Lastly, here is a video on how to eat musk thistle, and here is another take on it.  

*Note that the Wyoming Department of Health has provided consumption advice according to mercury levels for fish caught from Jackson Lake. You can read the advisory here.

**Canada Geese and White-Tailed Deer are not technically invasive species, but according to some, they are displacing other more sensitive native species.

4th Graders Prevent Bird Window Strikes

“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.

Morgan Graham talks to a group of 4th graders about bird strikes.

Morgan Graham talks to a group of 4th graders about bird 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.

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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: 

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  • 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 morgan@tetonconservation.org.

Home, Home on the Range

Chuck Butterfield, PhD with Y2 Consultants identifies plant species during rangeland monitoring. Photo credit: Robb Sgroi.

Chuck Butterfield, PhD with Y2 Consultants identifies plant species during rangeland monitoring. Photo credit: Robb Sgroi.

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.”

Chuck Butterfield, PhD with Y2 Consultants characterizes a soil pit during rangeland monitoring. Photo credit: Robb Sgroi

Chuck Butterfield, PhD with Y2 Consultants characterizes a soil pit during rangeland monitoring. Photo credit: Robb Sgroi

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.

Ask an Arborist

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.

Robb (left) in 2003 up Phillips Canyon.

Robb (left) in 2003 up Phillips Canyon.

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?

Robb dropping some tree knowledge last fall.

Robb dropping some tree knowledge last fall.

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 robb@tetonconservation.org or you can call us at 733-2110.

Snowpack Chemistry Monitoring

By Phoebe Coburn

Robb and Bob approach the study site.

Robb and Bob approach the study site.

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.

Robb shovels and Bob examines snow grain types.

Robb shovels and Bob examines snow grain types.

Phoebe measures Snow Water Equivalent (SWE).

Phoebe measures Snow Water Equivalent (SWE).

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.

This boxplot shows the outliers (black circles), 10th and 90th percentiles (whiskers), 25th and 75th percentiles (box), and median (black horizontal line) concentrations for the 2018 Rocky Mountain Region snowpack chemistry data. The red open circles show the concentrations for the sites in Teton County that are supported by Teton Conservation District. Concentrations are reported in microequivalents per liter (μeq/L) or or nanograms per liter (ng/L). Graphic and data from USGS.

This boxplot shows the outliers (black circles), 10th and 90th percentiles (whiskers), 25th and 75th percentiles (box), and median (black horizontal line) concentrations for the 2018 Rocky Mountain Region snowpack chemistry data. The red open circles show the concentrations for the sites in Teton County that are supported by Teton Conservation District. Concentrations are reported in microequivalents per liter (μeq/L) or or nanograms per liter (ng/L). Graphic and data from USGS.

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.  

Bob and Phoebe smiling at the end of the day. Fun fact: One of Phoebe’s closest childhood friends is Bob’s daughter, Danika.

Bob and Phoebe smiling at the end of the day. Fun fact: One of Phoebe’s closest childhood friends is Bob’s daughter, Danika.

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.

A Bug's Library

By Elyce Gosselin, Natural Resources Technician

Elyce (left) and Mikenna (right) collecting macroinvertebrates in Flat Creek.

Elyce (left) and Mikenna (right) collecting macroinvertebrates in Flat Creek.

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.

Looking for macroinvertebrates under rocks in the stream bed.

Looking for macroinvertebrates under rocks in the stream bed.

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.

Mikenna and Elyce finding more aquatic friends.

Mikenna and Elyce finding more aquatic friends.

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.

A Stonefly basking in the spring sun.

A Stonefly basking in the spring sun.

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!

Students Study Stormwater 

By Phoebe Coburn

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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.

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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.

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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.

Spring is on the way! But also flood season…

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.

1974 Cache Creek Flood

1974 Cache Creek Flood

1974 Cache Creek Flood

1974 Cache Creek Flood

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:

Spring flooding on the west bank of the Snake River in 2017.

Spring flooding on the west bank of the Snake River in 2017.

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.

Be two weeks ready by the Wyoming Dept. of Homeland Security. Click on the image for more information.

Be two weeks ready by the Wyoming Dept. of Homeland Security. Click on the image for more information.

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.

Meet the Staff: Carlin Girard

Carlin out ice fishing. Just kidding, that’s Astoria.

Carlin out ice fishing. Just kidding, that’s Astoria.

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.

Astoria working on her paddling technique.

Astoria working on her paddling technique.

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.

Carlin’s wife, Amy, and his Dad, Bill

Carlin’s wife, Amy, and his Dad, Bill

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.

Carlin with the okay-sized winter kill he found.

Carlin with the okay-sized winter kill he found.

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?

Carlin with an okay-sized steelhead.

Carlin with an okay-sized steelhead.

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.

Freezing and Flooding on Flat Creek

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.

Projects to go before the Wyoming Water Development Commission

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. 

Kellen and TCD’s Executive Director, Tom Segerstrom, out in the field.

Kellen and TCD’s Executive Director, Tom Segerstrom, out in the field.

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:   

Fish passage restored during dam removal project phase.

Fish passage restored during dam removal project phase.

Looking upstream at Spread Creek Dam prior to project construction and removal.

Looking upstream at Spread Creek Dam prior to project construction and removal.

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.

A giant boulder that was displaced in the 2007 Jensen Canyon debris flow event.

A giant boulder that was displaced in the 2007 Jensen Canyon debris flow event.

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.

Kellen and Tom heading out to look at the proposed 7 Mile Ranch Rural Community Fire Suppression project.

Kellen and Tom heading out to look at the proposed 7 Mile Ranch Rural Community Fire Suppression project.

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 robb@tetonconservation.org or (307) 733-2110.  

Meet the Staff: Elyce Gosselin

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.

CWD: What can I do?

CWD: What can I do?

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.