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Sheep Creek Restoration

Historically, Sheep Creek supported some of the largest numbers of spawning Yellowstone cutthroat trout from the Blackfoot River found anywhere in the watershed. More recent redd counts show a drastic decline in spawner numbers. Sustained, intensive grazing has degraded habitat. Riparian woody vegetation is now completely absent, resulting in accelerated erosion and a straight, over-wide, and shallow channel. The Sheep Creek channel upstream from the Lanes Creek Road now appears to support almost no Yellowstone cutthroat trout spawning and has even become marginal as a migration corridor to access quality habitat further upstream. The channel’s wide, shallow profile, coupled with the complete lack of cover, significantly increases exposure and predation risk, and in many places the stream lacks enough depth to even be navigable for larger, migratory fish. Partnering with landowner Bear Lake Grazing Company, UBC will undertake the restoration of Sheep Creek.

Objectives

  1. Restore the natural channel profile in Sheep Creek to improve habitat, water quality, and stream function.

    1. Realign the stream channel to reflect historic meander pattern and stream profile.

    2. Manually rebuild streambanks to narrow and deepen the channel.

    3. Repair eroding streambanks by sloping vertical banks and using bio-engineering technique to stabilize raw banks until vegetation gets established.

  2. Re-establish a robust riparian corridor to provide cover and stabilize the restored stream channel.

    1. Transplant willows and other native woody riparian vegetation from nearby sources to re-establish a healthy riparian corridor.

    2. Control noxious weeds along the 2,500 ft of restored channel.

  3. Restore the ability of Sheep Creek to support Yellowstone cutthroat trout spawning and rearing, as well as its function as a migration corridor to access quality habitat upstream in the National Forest.

Planning

 

The engineering and design for this project is underway. Trout Unlimited conducted topographic surveys of both the treatment and reference reaches, and hydraulic and sediment modeling and design engineering are in progress. We plan to complete construction of this project in the fall of 2014.

Project Partners

Partnering with landowner Bear Lake Grazing Company, UBC will provide funding for the Sheep Creek restoration project. This may be supplemented with funding from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Trout Unlimited will contribute funding and in-kind assistance.