The Henry Fork Basin Study (HFBS) discusses future water management options that have significant potential negative impacts to Wyoming wildlife. While the HFBS discusses impact to fisheries and game animal habitat it fails to delineate specific impacts to Wyoming game and fish. Little or no economic benefit will accrue to the State of Wyoming or to its hunters or anglers from this proposed water management project but risk to Wyoming’s game animal habitat and fisheries is great.
Mule deer and elk populations that inhabit Wyoming during spring, summer, and fall are at great risk of losing winter range habitat and ancient migration corridors due to proposed water development in Idaho. There is greatest risk with the Teton Dam option which would flood a large area of the Teton Canyon that provides habitat for deer which spend spring, summer, and fall in Wyoming (Loomis 2012) as well as to wintering elk. Big game ungulates travel as far as the Jackson Lake vicinity to winter in Teton Canyon and tributary canyons of Bitch and Badger Creeks. Big game winter habitat in Teton Canyon and tributaries is so sensitive that the Bureau of Land Management, Upper Snake Field Office has floated the idea of managing Federal lands in Teton Canyon as an Area of Critical Concern (ACEC) (Loomis 2012). Elk and deer that inhabit Wyoming during the spring, summer, and fall also migrate through the Badger Creek area including at and in the vicinity of the proposed Badger Creek Dam. Big game migration routes and winter range are very sensitive to construction disturbance as well as to increases of motorized recreation (Rowland et al. 2004) which invariably following reservoir construction.
In addition to negative impact Wyoming’s big game populations, the proposed water projects also present great risk to Wyoming’s Yellowstone cutthroat trout fishery. Creating dams on the Teton River or Badger Creek will block fluvial Yellowstone cutthroat trout migration corridors to Wyoming headwater spawning grounds. A dam on the Teton River would affect Yellowstone cutthroat trout populations as well as their access to spawning habitat in major headwater drainages in Wyoming including Teton Creek, Badger Creek, and Bitch Creek. While a dam on Badger Creek would negatively affect only the upstream portion of this drainage, note that Badger Creek has a strong population of Yellowstone cutthroat trout. We also express concern with any project that reduced winter/spring flows in such a way that would upset the historic and prehistoric spring freshet that prevents non-native species like rainbow trout from migrating upstream and threatening the genetic integrity of Yellowstone cutthroat trout (Levy 2011).
The proposed water development options have a high likelihood of degrading Wyoming game and fish populations but provide no benefit to Wyoming resident sportsmen and sportswomen or to the State of Wyoming. The Wyoming Chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers oppose any water development that negatively impacts game animals that spend the spring, summer, and fall seasons in Wyoming as well as negative impact to Wyoming fisheries.
The Board and Officers of the Wyoming Chapter - Backcountry Hunters and Anglers
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Loomis, Molly. 2012 On the Move. Teton Valley Magazine: Teton River Canyon Mule Deer Herd Needs Quality Habitat, Clear Migration Corridor . Summer 2012. http://www.lifeinthetetons.com/Teton-Valley-Magazine/Summer-2012/On-the-Move/
Rowland, Mary M., Michael J. Wisdom, Bruce K. Johnson, and Mark A. Penninger. 2004. Effects of Roads on Elk: Implications for Management in Forested Ecosystems. In, Transactions of the 69'"North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference, March 16-20, 2004, Spokane, Washington, edited by Jennifer Rahm, Pages 491-508. Wildlife Management Institute, Washington DC. http://www.fs.fed.us/pnw/lagrande/starkey_na/PDFs_Preprints/ms-04_Rowland.pdf