In 2002 and 2004 the Dunn Family protected over 1 mile of the Teton River corridor by placing 250 acres along the River under three permanent conservation easements held by Teton Regional Land Trust (TRLT). The Dunn properties are part of an active cattle ranching operation and, along with adjacent easements and Idaho Department of Fish and Game land, comprise the longest contiguous protected reach (both banks) of the Teton River.
Interested in improving fish and wildlife habitat on their ranch, the Dunn Family initiated a change in ranch management in 2004 by enrolling in the Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) through the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Through partnership with the NRCS and TRLT, the Dunn Ranch fenced the entire Teton River Riparian corridor through their property to enhance aquatic and riparian habitat. In addition, TRLT, the Dunn Family and project partners recently completed streambank and riparian restoration along unstable banks within the Rainier Reach.
A preliminary assessment in 2005 by TRLT and NRCS concluded that most riparian habitat would improve with exclusion of cattle, but identified eight reaches where eroded banks would require more aggressive restoration techniques. Since then, TRLT, the Dunn family and project partners contributed over $200,000 to the project.
Restoration work began in fall 2007 with Teton Valley Trout Unlimited and volunteers collecting and planting nearly 600 willow poles. In fall 2008, streambanks were recontoured and revegetated with wetland sod, 870 potted willows and over 3,250 willow poles. Finishing touches to the wetland sod planting were finished in summer 2009.
Restoring this reach of the Teton River enhances habitat that benefits a variety of wildlife species considered national and regional conservation priorities including Yellowstone cutthroat trout, trumpeter swans, sandhill crane, long-billed curlew, bald eagle, Columbian sharp tailed grouse, waterbirds and big game. Click here for before and after photos.
TRLT and partners have made strong efforts to use this restoration project as a demonstration to working landowners and other organizations that agriculture and wildlife habitat are compatible. Presentations about the project occurred at the TRLT membership meeting, Snake River Cutthroats membership meeting and the National Land Trust Rally in Denver. The Natural Resources Conservation Service, Idaho Department of Fish and Game, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Teton Valley Trout Unlimited (TVTU) and TRLT members and donors and volunteers have participated in project tours. Articles about the project have been reported in TRLT and TVTU newsletters as well as local and national media.
This project would not be possible without a multitude of partners including: HD Dunn & Son Ranch, Teton Regional Land Trust, Teton Valley Trout Unlimited, Natural Resources Conservation Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service Private Stewardship, US Fish and Wildlife Service Partners for Fish and Wildlife, Idaho Department of Fish and Game, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Bring Back the Natives, Community Foundation of Jackson Hole, Trout Unlimited Embrace a Stream, Defenders of Wildlife Living Lands, Intermountain Aquatics, Western Watersheds, River Research & Restoration LLC, Army Corps of Engineers, Idaho Department of Water Resources, Snake River Cutthroats, Friends of the Teton River and dozens of volunteers.
Click here to view an article in the Defenders of Wildlife newsletter, Livng Lands, regarding this project. ■