Trout Unlimited’s Tincup project enters homestretch

JACKSON, Wyo. — Hopes are high as Trout Unlimited (TU) and the Caribou-Targhee National Forest (CTNF) enter into the fourth and final year of the Tincup Creek Stream Restoration Project.

Initiated in 2017, the project is a largescale, multi-phased effort to improve ecosystem function and habitat for cutthroat trout and other native fish species on five miles of degraded stream on forest lands. This year’s 8-week construction phase is taking place between July 20 and September 30.

“It truly takes a village…” says TU’s Leslie Steen. The ambitious 4-year project has called on several partners, stakeholders and volunteers like these planting willows with a stinger jet in an area with beaver activity. Photo: Trout Unlimited

“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,” said Leslie Steen, program director with TU. “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.”

Stream reach map showing the entire 5-mile project area divided into phase locations. Image: CTNF

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 itself has been impaired and degraded for more than 60 years. Aerial spraying of willows and other land management impacts are to blame, says TU. 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.

 So how do you fix a crippled creek?

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 are carried out by heavy equipment operators experienced in stream restoration work. This final year of the project will cover 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.

The joint efforts have been enough to land the project  on the list of 10 Waters to Watch, a national by the National Fish Habitat Partnership. In total, the project will restore five miles of aquatic habitat in the Tincup Creek watershed.

Lee Mabey, forest fisheries biologist for the Caribou-Targhee NF, said, “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.”

Leslie Steen (TU) and Lee Mabey (CTNF) accept USFS Intermountain Region Partnerships and Volunteerism award from Nora Rasure, USFS Regional Forester. Photo: TU

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