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Heather Mattson measures the wetted width of a stream on the LU Ranch.
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Nikki Maier collects vegetative and water quality data on Left Hand Creek on the LU Ranch.
Counting fish. Erecting water tanks.
Sharing a cup of coffee with a ranch manager. These are just a few of the activities two stewardship technicians for the Conservancy in Wyoming have participated in this summer as part of our Future Conservation Leaders program. Heather Mattson and Nicole "Nikki" Maier recently graduated from Colorado State University with bachelor’s degrees in Fish, Wildlife and Conservation Biology. Their professional interests are varied and include applied ecology and ecological restoration.
Now, these two young women are out in the field, representing two of the Conservancy's on-the-ground stewardship projects in high-priority watersheds that feed the Bighorn River in northwest Wyoming. Their seasonal positions are partially funded by a Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality grant aimed at improving water quality on several tributaries of the Bighorn River.
In addition, ExxonMobil presented the Conservancy in Wyoming with a $10,000 check intended to further rangeland conservation work across the state and support the Conservancy's Future Conservation Leaders program. "We are proud to be part of Wyoming and look forward to many years of partnership with the local communities," said Monte Olson, Wyoming Area Operations Superintendent for ExxonMobil.
Living and working on the 150,000-acre LU Ranch, Heather and Nikki literally have backyard access to Grass Creek, a possible site for future populations of Yellowstone cutthroat trout. The Conservancy oversees DEQ grant funds being used along Grass Creek to implement livestock Best Management Practices that will reduce weed infestations and establish long-term water quality and range monitoring. Our seasonal technicians are helping local landowners with all aspects of the grant, from collecting range monitoring data to building water tanks to surveying for weeds. Management practices implemented by the LU Ranch, including off-creek water development and control of streamside weeds, should lead to measurable improvements in water quality.
Over the next couple of months, Heather and Nikki will shift location and spend more time in the Cottonwood Creek drainage, where the Conservancy is an active member of the Cottonwood/Grass Creek Cooperative Resource Management group (CRM). Landowners along the Cottonwood are working collaboratively with numerous governmental agency partners to improve streamside areas by replacing invasive tamarisk (also known as salt cedar) and Russian olive with native tree species along several miles of the stream. The technicians are also assisting the CRM by surveying remote drainages for the occurrence of these invasive plant species, collecting data that will be used to monitor treated areas, and, in cooperation with WY Game and Fish, conducting fish surveys in the creek.