Protecting your home waters and America’s first ranger station

TU Project Manager Brittany Swope

Earlier this year, the Wyoming’s TU staff met in Thermopolis, Wyoming, to discuss priorities and projects across the state in 2024 and beyond.

Thermopolis is a hidden gem hosting some of the Cowboy State’s most vaunted outdoor wonders, including the world’s largest mineral hot springs, a dinosaur center where you can dig for them, and the “Hole in the Wall” bar where Butch Cassidy and his gang would frequent (and Robert Redford allegedly tried to purchase). Additionally, the Wind River Indian Reservation lies to the south and the fur and leather outfitter that produced buffalo coats for Quentin Tarantino’s western, The Hateful Eight, can be found in town.

As it relates to our fishy friends, however, one of the more unique features of this town can be found just south at the Wedding of the Waters, where the Wind River curiously becomes the Bighorn River. And to the Northwest, is where America’s first U.S. Forest Service ranger station is found – just a couple hours away near Wapiti, Wyoming.

Exploring the Bighorns by fly rod

Where TU’s Swope roams

At the center of this story, however, is our Bighorn Basin project manager Brittany Swope, who covers the territory spanning from our nation’s first national forest, Shoshone National Forest (which abuts our first national park, Yellowstone), across the high desert and plains of one of the nation’s most prominent barley producers for craft beer, through dinosaur fossil country and Bureau of Land Management lands, and ending on the western slopes of the historic Bighorn National Forest.

North Fork Shoshone River

With so much territory to cover across culturally and historically important waters and lands, we can rest easy though, as these are the very places Swope was born and raised. Based out of Cody, Wyoming, Swope travels across this area known as the Bighorn Basin, working to implement Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), and U.S. Forest Service Keystone Agreement projects in her own backyard.

“There’s just so much to love in this area if you enjoy the outdoors,” said Swope. “I am grateful to not only call this area home, but to also continue working here on historically relevant projects.”

Of Swope’s many projects, the river and riparian restoration of the North Fork Shoshone River and nearby tributaries at the Wapiti Ranger Station along the eastern entrance of Yellowstone National Park in Shoshone National Forest stands out in its historical significance.

Wapiti Ranger Station

“This is America’s first ranger station,” said Swope. “We’re partnering with Shoshone National Forest to improve the habitat at the station because of how much visitation it receives from visitors exploring the forest and those on their way to the Park. We’re hoping to improve streambank stability to minimize the risk to recreation and camping infrastructure nearby, as well as improve the floodplain functions of the area and provide aquatic habitat for native Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout.”

Yellowstone Cutthroat

In total, the U.S. Forest Service has allocated more than $1.2 million to this project through the BIL, IRA, Secure Rural Schools Act, and the Keystone Agreement with TU.

“Although we’re tentatively working on the design elements for the project in order to begin by Fall 2025, we’re still fundraising the remaining $800,000 implementation and match requirement funds,” said Swope. “Given the historical and recreational significance of this project area, however, we’re confident in our ability to reach out to people and explain why their support will make a difference.”

The Bighorn Basin in Wyoming will be getting a lot of Swope’s attention

Asked how she planned to lead this undertaking, she responded with the quiet determination so often found in Westerners.

“We’re Wyomingites, and we have a storied history of leading on conservation issues,” said Swope. “We have the first national park, national forest, national monument, and ranger station. It only makes sense that we take care of them and ensure our historical and recreational values are improved for future generations.”

For more information about the project and understanding how you can help get to work on this historic project, please contact Swope directly at: