Cody – Last September, partners from multiple originations gathered in the Bighorn Mountains to work on a habitat improvement project for Yellowstone cutthroat trout in the Soldier Creek drainage.

With funding from Wyoming Wildlife Natural Resource Trust, partners from Wyoming Game and Fish Department, Trout Unlimited and the U.S. Forest Service installed 3,000 feet of moveable, steel jack fence along a section of Soldier Creek. R&M Welding was contracted to build, deliver and help install the fence.

The goal of the project is to prevent excessive elk, moose and cattle use of riparian stream habitat to allow for willow regeneration and growth. Riparian habitat in general, and willow growth in particular, will be monitored inside the enclosure. Once habitat improvement goals are met, the fence will be moved systematically upstream. Eventually, nearly one mile of riparian habitat along Soldier Creek will be restored. In the spring of 2021, the group plans to plant approximately 1000 willows within the enclosure area.

“Complex and robust riparian habitat provides overhead cover, thermal buffering, deep pools and better spawning habitat. All which benefit a trout population, allowing them to persist and thrive in varying water conditions,” said Cody Fisheries Biologist Joe Skorupski. “Habitat in Soldier Creek has been impacted by grazing from wildlife and cattle, and in many areas woody vegetation is lacking along the stream channel. The U.S. Forest Service and the grazing permittee continue to take steps to improve and monitor associated grazing allotments. Improvements have been observed, but willow establishment and regeneration continues to be impeded. To allow for the establishment and regeneration of willow communities and improvement of riparian species community composition, an exclosure fence is needed.”

The construction of the fence and future willow planting are part of a much larger, landscape scale initiative to improve habitat and conserve

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