Voices from the river

Voices from the River: Teaming up for conservation

Christina Barrineau of Wyoming Game and Fish talks to students from Encampment Elementary School as part of efforts of the ongoing project to foster river stewardship on the North Platte and Encampment rivers in Wyoming. Jeff Streeter/Trout Unlimited

By Brett Prettyman

There is nothing better than being able to cross something off a long to-do list and feeling good about how it was accomplished.

Such was the case in 2017 for three people working together to restore aquatic habitat in the North Platte and Encampment rivers and their tributaries in south central Wyoming.

The team of Christina Barrineau of Wyoming Game and Fish, Joe Parsons of the Saratoga Encampment Rawlins Conservation District and Jeff Streeter, serving as the North Platte River Water Project Manager for Trout Unlimited, formed a collaboration to do the work and started in 2011.

Watch a side-by-side video of before and after restoration work on the Cherokee/Wagoner Reconnect and the Odd Fellow Habitat Enhancement. Both are Encampment River projects.

Since they started, the team, according to the Forest Service nomination letter, has:

— Reconnected more than 109 miles of wild trout habitat by removing 12 barriers.

— Restored more than 12,000 linear feet of river channel.

— Planted thousands of willows and other native shrubs.

— Raised $3.5 million for stream restoration, fish passage, and riparian enhancements.

— Provided numerous stream restoration and watershed health educational opportunities for students and adults throughout the valley.

— Monitored 11 projects to gage success and better understand river dynamics.

Others also noticed the work and soon joined in the effort.

After an 8-mile habitat reconnection on the East Fork of the Encampment River was completed in 2011, requests were made for private landowners to sign up for restoration work to be done on their property.

Only one landowner agreed, but others signed up after seeing the value of the work, leading to an even more comprehensive restoration effort. The partners have worked on 12 projects on private land and four projects on public land.

According to the nomination letter, a total of 86 miles of stream habitat on the forest are now accessible to fish.

The work will continue in 2018 with plans to restore over 3,500 linear feet of channel on the North Platte and Encampment Rivers; the team’s most ambitious year yet. Plans to reconnect the Encampment River with the North Platte for the first time in over 90 years are in the works. It takes the entire team to get a project of this size off the ground.

Landowners, water users, agencies, and funders must come together and realize the importance of reconnecting fisheries. For that to happen we have to engage everyone, we have to tell the story of the Encampment River. This story is told best by Christina, Joe and Jeff.

Brett Prettyman is the Intermountain Communications Director for Trout Unlimited. His based out of Salt Lake City and can be reached at bprettyman@tu.org

By Brett Prettyman.