Trout Unlimited lies deep in the fishing culture throughout the United States. We are one of many organizations that’s mission involves bettering the streams and rivers of America. Every day, we work with partners from our hometowns, from across the country, and throughout the state. The American Fisheries Society (AFS) is a non-profit organization whose mission is to improve the conservation and sustainability of fishery resources and aquatic ecosystems by advancing fisheries and aquatic science and promoting the development of fisheries professionals.
Within our amazing conservation staff at Trout Unlimited, we have truly knowledgeable, dedicated, and passionate people who are committed to their home waters. Matthew Green is among one of these TU staffers; Matt was honored by The American Fisheries Society, Idaho Chapter with the 2022 Aquatic Habitat Award earlier this month (March 2022). The Aquatic Habitat Award strives to recognize significant or innovative work performed by AFS members. The project, which recognizes involvement, commitment, and collaboration from the landowner of Beyeler Ranch, Trout Unlimited, Lost River Fish Ecology LLC, Bureau of Reclamation, Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund, Upper Salmon Basin Watershed Program, and The Governer’s Office of Species Conservation was completed in late 2021. To me, it says a lot that one of our partners in restoration in the Upper Salmon River Basin nominated Matt for this award. Together, we get great work done that improves our rivers and streams.
During the project, the teams worked together to ensure habitat complexity and abundance, floodplain connectivity, and improvement of riparian conditions for spring chinook salmon on private property owned and operated as a working cattle ranch by Beyeler Ranch in the Upper Lemhi Valley of Central Idaho. The project is one of many completed on this ranch over the last twelve years. The landowner has a history of salmon restoration which began with constructing a conservation easement with The Nature Conservancy back in 2010. This particular project covers a 3,800-foot stretch of river that had an oversized channel, with little cover habitat. The streams pace was too consistent for positive fish habitat prior to completion of the project, with too few pools and riffles.
One of the greatest challenges in this project was to complete the work without disrupting any existing spawning. The landowner also challenged the designer to complete designs that were minimally invasive. To the designers, this meant developing new wood and willow-based structures with little to no excavation required, as well as structures that helped develop forms and processes with chutes, pools, water backed up into floodplains, and riffles as would be expected when beavers (one of the main disturbances and, therefore habitat creators) were present. This project was the ultimate design of promoting natural channel processes and habitat development while challenging the implementation.
Ultimately, twelve habitat specific treatments were designed and built including a large meander structure made of an assortment of log sizes and willow clumps that required no excavation. Another innovative structure was a “deflector” made to mimic an old, densely rooted willow clump with substantial erosion resistance. When used across from one another, they develop a chute that scours the bed and sorts the sediments in riffle crests suitable for spawning. Channel spanning wood jams were used to back water up and scour beneath them to re-deposit sediments immediately downstream for spawning grounds. The backwater from enhanced areas of channel spanners also helped form loosely stage-zero-like areas with low velocities and dense cover.
In the end, the project blends well into the natural landscape of the ranch. We cannot wait to watch this develop into more complex habitat over the next few years. Congratulations to Matthew Green and the team of sponsors and supporters for your hard work and dedication to Idaho’s waters.