Seeing some daylight in conservation work

Cottonwood Creek flume. 

So how is Trout Unlimited doing with its collaborative, pragmatic approach to conservation? Look no further than the latest round of the Bureau of Reclamation’s WaterSmart grants, which recognize innovative, cooperative efforts to improve watershed health.

Trout Unlimited’s name is all over this year’s list of awardees. A couple of the highlights:

In Idaho, BOR awarded $100,000 to the Ted Trueblood Chapter and the Boise River Enhancement Network to restore the last 440 feet of Cottonwood Creek where it empties into the Boise River in downtown Boise—the stretch is currently buried underneath a concrete flume. The project will “daylight” this stretch of Cottonwood Creek and restore its natural sinuosity and instream structure. Not only will the restored creek be a lot more beautiful than concrete, but the improved habitat will benefit native species such as sculpin and provide better spawning and rearing opportunities for brown and rainbow trout. All of which will enhance the mainstem fishery in the Boise River.

TU’s Ted Trueblood chapter devised the Cottonwood Creek restoration plan way back in 2003 and will oversee the project. But their efforts only came to fruition by working with many partners, including the Boise River Enhancement Network, the City of Boise, the Land Trust of the Treasure Valley, Intermountain Bird Observatory, Idaho Department of Fish and Game, Boise Valley Fly Fishers, and the Ada County Highway District.

In Colorado, things are also looking brighter for a small, rare population of native Colorado River cutthroat trout in Abrams Creek, outside the town of Eagle. The population is genetically unique and the only native trout population in the Eagle River watershed, according to state biologists. Colorado Parks and Wildlife has called the population the “highest priority” for cutthroat conservation efforts in western Colorado.

BOR announced Wednesday that it was awarding a $90,000 WaterSmart grant to the Abrams Creek project, which will improve efficiency and reduce diversions by a local irrigation ditch to improve flows in the creek and preserve the native fish population. This project, too, builds on diverse support. TU’s local Eagle River chapter and TU counsel Mely Whiting are working with a range of partners who bring their own expertise and resources, including Buckhorn District--the irrigation ditch owner--Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the Eagle River Watershed Council, and BLM.

Abrams Creek. 

Local support is critical: A few weeks ago, the Gypsum Town Council announced its commitment to contribute $100,000 out of their impact fees fund for the project. And a few days later, Alpine Bank in Gypsum followed with a $500 contribution.

By working creatively with partners, TU is getting amazing things done on the ground, where it counts—and those efforts are being recognized and rewarded.

Let the light shine on our rivers.

Randy Scholfield is Trout Unlimited’s director of communications for the Southwest.


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