Partnership will benefit trout in Utah, Idaho and Wyoming
Resources Legacy Fund is partnering with the Western Native Trout Initiative (WNTI) through the Open Rivers Fund to reconnect parts of the Upper Bear River in Utah, Idaho, and Wyoming. The partnership will benefit Bonneville cutthroat trout, recreational fishing, and ranchers who divert water for irrigation. The partnership will ultimately fund eight restoration projects that will remove five diversion dams, three additional barriers and restore stream and riparian habitat.
The projects funded through the Open Rivers Fund are expected to be completed by early next summer. The Open Rivers Fund is a 10-year, $50 million program of Resources Legacy Fund, supported by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. It supports local community efforts to remove obsolete dams, modernize infrastructure, and restore rivers across the West. Resources Legacy Fund works with donors to create significant outcomes for the environment and for people.
Resources Legacy Fund granted $278,000 this summer to WNTI to remove three agricultural diversion dams on the Upper Bear River in Wyoming, and replace them with fish passable structures that also maintain the ranchers’ points of diversion. Two more diversion dam removal and replacement projects in Idaho are in the planning stages. Three additional projects in Wyoming and Utah are contemplated next year following completion of the initial projects.
“Our partnership with Western Native Trout Initiative will demonstrate ways to both upgrade irrigation infrastructure and reconnect rivers for fish,” said Kathy Viatella, Program Officer for the Open Rivers Fund. “We hope these initial projects show ranchers across the West that there are ways to reduce irrigation diversion maintenance and costs while freeing native species to reclaim lost habitat.”
Multiple irrigation diversion structures and other barriers fragment the Upper Bear River drainage, which spans Northern Utah, Southeast Idaho, and Southwest Wyoming. WNTI is working with many partners to remove and replace aging infrastructure in order to protect Bonneville cutthroat trout strongholds, restore habitat connectivity, and open up access to high-quality upstream habitats and cold, clean water on both public and private lands.
“We are thrilled about this new collaboration between WNTI and Resources Legacy Fund that will benefit native fish, landowners, and recreationists in the Upper Bear River drainage,” said WNTI Coordinator Therese Thompson. “Successfully addressing native trout recovery is a landscape-scale problem that requires collaboration from all interested parties in both the public and private sectors.”
WNTI is a program of the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and a recognized National Fish Habitat Partnership that works to cooperatively restore and recover 21 western native trout and char species and sub-species across their historic range. The program funds efforts that raise awareness of the importance of native trout and focus limited financial and human resources toward the highest-impact, locally-led, on-the-ground projects. Since its inception in 2006, WNTI has directed over $5 million in federal fish habitat funds leveraged with an additional $23 million public and private matching dollars for 139 priority native trout conservation projects. With the collaboration and coordination of WNTI Partners, 87 barriers to fish passage have been removed, 1,130 miles of native trout habitat have been reconnected or improved, and 30 protective fish barriers to conserve important native trout conservation populations have been put in place.
WAFWA news releases available at http://www.wafwa.org/news/
Photo Credit: Jason Jaacks – Resources Legacy Fund
Since 1922, the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) has advanced conservation in western North America. Representing 24 western states and Canadian provinces, WAFWA’s reach encompasses more than 40 percent of North America, including two-thirds of the United States. Drawing on the knowledge of scientists across the West, WAFWA is recognized as the expert source for information and analysis about western wildlife. WAFWA supports sound resource management and building partnerships at all levels to conserve wildlife for the use and benefit of all citizens, now and in the future.
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