TU launches new initiative for coldwater fisheries conservation in Snake River Headwaters


Barb Allen, President, Jackson Hole Trout Unlimited, 307-413-3510, info@jhtroutunlimited.org

Cory Toye, Wyoming Water Project Director, Trout Unlimited, 307-332-7700 x14, ctoye@tu.org

Leslie Steen, Snake River Headwaters Project Manager, lsteen@tu.org

Brett Prettyman, Intermountain Communications Director, Trout Unlimited, 801-209-5320, bprettyman@tu.org


Leslie Steen hired to lead the effort

JACKSON, Wyoming Trout Unlimited (TU) and Jackson Hole Trout Unlimited (JHTU) announced today the launch of an ambitious new initiative to restore and protect the headwaters of the upper Snake River and its fishery, together with a diverse group of community and agency partners. TUs Snake River Headwaters Home Rivers Initiative will leverage the capacity of the active JHTU chapter and engaged membership in and around Jackson Hole by working with partners to develop and implement high-priority restoration projects to benefit native trout and their habitats.

TU welcomes Leslie Steen as Snake River Headwaters Project Manager to lead this effort. Steen has lived in Jackson Hole since 2007 and in the Greater Yellowstone Area for more than a decade.

“In all my years at Trout Unlimited, I have never seen a chapter step up to protect their home waters like JHTU is doing, said Chris Wood, President and CEO of Trout Unlimited. JHTU is setting a model of collaboration and leadership that will guarantee that our children will be able to fish for robust populations of wild and native fish in the Headwaters of the Snake.

Nationally, TUs Home Rivers Initiatives (HRI) are tested and proven programs that apply the full range of TUs scientific, policy, education, and legal expertise toward watershed-scale restoration and protection. TUs many successes using this method range from the Catskills in New York and the Driftless Area of the upper Midwest, to the South Fork of the Snake and Deschutes rivers in the West. As is common to TUs approach to conservation, partners and stakeholders will be key to the success of the Snake River Headwaters HRI.

“The Wyoming Game and Fish Department has a long history of partnering with TU and we are excited about expanded future opportunities due to the HRI,”said Rob Gipson, Regional Fisheries Supervisor for the Snake River drainage.

TU has already built a foundation for success in the Snake River Headwaters program area. In 2010, TU and a broad coalition of partners removed a full-spanning diversion dam on Spread Creek, reconnecting more than 50 miles of habitat. In 2012, TU and partners removed the Newbold Dam from the Gros Ventre River, reconnecting more than 60 miles for native fish. Since 2007, five Adopt-A-Trout classes have provided curriculum about the watershed and its native fishery to over 600 students in Jackson.

In addition, the JHTU chapter has been actively involved in fisheries conservation since its founding in 1980, including recent projects such as the collaborative effort to improve habitat and water quality in Flat Creek, enhancing spring creek habitat for cutthroat trout in Edmiston, Spring, and Cody creeks, and supporting research, monitoring and education to complement these projects. Increasing our capacity in this incredible watershed will lead to extensive partnerships to improve habitat for trout.

As the new project manager, Leslie Steen will work with the community and volunteers to identify and implement restoration projects that dovetail with completed and ongoing efforts. This locally driven effort will lead to more project completions and wins for coldwater fisheries throughout the Snake River and its tributaries.

The Snake River Headwaters HRI was launched out of recognition that while the Snake and its tributaries around Jackson Hole are keystones in one of the most iconic landscapes in the world, and enjoy many protections because of the large amount of public and protected lands within their watersheds, human activities and development continue to impact hydrologic function, stream habitat and native fish populations.

The Snake River Headwaters HRI will reconnect native trout spawning and rearing habitat by installing fish screens and removing fish passage barriers. Projects will also restore water quality, habitat, and healthy stream conditions by improving water use efficiencies and restoring streamflows. Outreach and youth education will actively engage the community and partners in these efforts.

Steen brings to her new role at TU a diverse skill set and professional experience in fisheries, nonprofits, partnerships, outreach and education. Steen has a B.A. in Environmental Biology from Columbia University and an M.S. in Fish and Wildlife Management from Montana State University, where she researched the effects of irrigation on wild trout in the Bitterroot Valley of Montana and helped prioritize conservation efforts. She has also been an active member of the JHTU board since 2014, and prior to joining TUs staff, worked at Jackson Hole Land Trust as Communications Manager, the Big Sky Institute at Montana State University, the Lolo National Forest, Alpinist Magazine, and Outward Bound. She is an alumna of the Womentum and Leadership Jackson Hole programs.

I feel personally invested in the future of fish and water in the Snake River Headwaters and the success of the HRI, and am honored to chart its course together with TUs partners, volunteers, and supporters, said Steen, who officially begins her new role March 29.

The Snake River Headwaters HRI has been funded by a $100,000 commitment from JHTU as well as the generous support of other private donations.

The money to seed this initiative is the product of incredible grassroots support for our watersheds. So many local Jackson Hole businesses, guides, lodges both here and internationally and area donors made this happen, said Barb Allen, president of JHTU.

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 Jackson Hole Trout Unlimited

Jackson Hole Trout Unlimited was formed in 1983 in Jackson, Wyoming, to conserve, protect, and restore Jackson Hole’s coldwater fisheries and their watersheds. JHTU is one of 15 Trout Unlimited chapters throughout the state that make up the Wyoming Council of Trout Unlimited.