Trout Unlimited, Caribou-Targhee National Forest in Final Year of Large-scale Restoration Project Benefitting Native Fish in Idaho’s Tincup Creek

Tuesday, August 11, 2020


Leslie Steen, Snake River Headwaters Project Manager, Trout Unlimited, 307-699-1022,

Lee Mabey, Forest Fisheries Biologist, Caribou-Targhee National Forest, 208-557-5784,


JACKSON, Wyoming – Trout Unlimited (TU) and the Caribou-Targhee National Forest (CTNF) announced today that the fourth and final year of the Tincup Creek Stream Restoration Project is currently underway. Initiated in 2017, the project is a large-scale, multi-phased effort to improve ecosystem function and habitat for cutthroat trout and other native fish species on 5 miles of degraded stream on CTNF lands. This year’s construction implementation will occur between July 20th and September 30th, 2020 and last approximately 8 weeks. 

“We are nearing the finish line on this high priority conservation project, and are incredibly grateful to all of the partners that have been a part of this collaborative effort. It truly takes a village, and ours has included conservation funders, state and federal agencies, ranchers, mines, fish biologists, and local community members. It’s been rewarding to see the stream and fish respond to our efforts and we will look forward to seeing the positive ecological response continuing into the future,” said Leslie Steen, TU NW Wyoming Program Director. 

The Tincup Creek project area is located above the junction of Highway 34 (Tincup Highway) and USFS Road #117 (Tincup / Bridge Creek Road), between Wayan, Idaho, and Freedom, Wyoming, in southeast Idaho. Tincup Creek within the project area has been impaired and degraded for more than 60 years, with the cause of the degradation linked to aerial spraying of willows and other land management impacts. The loss of willows precipitated the destabilization of the stream and led to the loss of meander bends and stream length, steepened gradients, channel downcutting, and an unhealthy, disconnected floodplain and riparian zone. 

Restoration techniques include building floodplain benches, transplanting whole willows, reconnecting historic meanders, adding large woody debris, elevating riffles for floodplain reconnection, and reinforcing naturally-occurring beaver dams. These techniques will be carried out by heavy equipment operators experienced in stream restoration work, with year 4 of the project expected to treat 1.2 miles of stream. Through these actions, riparian conditions and habitat will be improved for Yellowstone cutthroat trout (Snake River cutthroat trout population), and other native aquatic species with special management emphasis. Because of this native species assemblage, the project was named in 2017 as one of 10 Waters to Watch nationally by the National Fish Habitat Partnership. In total, the project will restore 5 miles of aquatic habitat in the Tincup Creek watershed. 

“It’s been great to see the stream connected to its floodplain again and the response of the native fish, amphibians, and waterfowl – we can already see the areas we’ve worked on in previous years begin to recover. We are grateful to our partners for helping see this project through,” said Lee Mabey, Forest Fisheries Biologist for the Caribou-Targhee National Forest. 

Partnerships have been a critical component of the project, which led to project partners being receiving the 2019 Partnerships and Volunteerism Award by the Intermountain Region of the U.S. Forest Service. The Tincup Creek Stream Restoration Project has received technical support and funding to date from the US Forest Service, Desert Fish Habitat Partnership, Idaho Department of Environmental Quality, Jackson Hole One Fly, Jackson Hole TU chapter, National Forest Foundation, Snake River Cutthroats TU chapter, Southeast Idaho Wildlife Mitigation Fund, Star Valley TU Chapter, TU and Orvis Embrace-a-Stream Grant Program and Challenge, US Fish and Wildlife Service – Idaho, and the Western Native Trout Initiative. Additional in-kind support has been provided by Agrium, Bear Lakes Grazing Association, Caribou County, Idaho Department of Fish and Game, Idaho Transportation Department, and OW Ranch. Together: Rebuilding Tincup, a project video highlighting its partnerships by Tight Line Media, is available to view at this Vimeo link

Volunteers from local TU chapters based in Idaho Falls, Star Valley, and Jackson Hole will assist with the restoration effort in 2020 as they did previously in 2017, 2018 and 2019. This year’s Tincup volunteer day is scheduled for Saturday, September 12th. Interested participants can contact the project contacts above for more information. In addition to volunteer support, all three TU chapters contributed funding towards the project and two chapters (Star Valley and Jackson) raised additional grassroots funding and prize money through the TU Orvis Embrace A Stream Challenge program, a week-long online competition and fundraising platform. 

Project partners will look forward to celebrating the completion of the multi-year project in September 2020. In the near future, TU and the CTNF plan to once again collaborate on a new project on the North Fork of Tincup Creek, upstream of the current project area, which has been listed by the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality as impaired for sedimentation. Because the project area is in an Idaho Inventoried Roadless Area, partners plan to use 4 types of horse-placed and anchored woody structures, local beaver activity, and the natural and depositional processes of sediment transport to encourage floodplain reconnection and stream health. 

The Tincup Creek Stream Restoration Project is a project of TU’s Snake River Headwaters Home Rivers Initiative, an ambitious initiative to restore and protect the headwaters of the Snake River and its fishery, together with a diverse group of community, landowner, and agency partners.  

About Trout Unlimited
Today, Trout Unlimited is a national organization with more than 155,000 volunteers organized into 400 chapters nationwide. These dedicated volunteers are paired with a respected staff of organizers, lawyers, policy experts and scientists, who work out of more than 30 offices. Our mission is to conserve, protect and restore North America’s cold-water fisheries and their watersheds. Follow TU on Facebook and Twitter, and follow our blog for all the latest information on trout and salmon conservation.

About the Caribou-Targhee National Forest 

One of the original purposes of the Forest Service was to provide healthy watersheds and clean water. Forest Service lands are to be managed to provide the greatest good to the greatest numbers as we care for the land and serve the people.