RIVER AND HABITAT RESTORATION

The Wood River Land Trust works with municipalities, non-profits, other government agencies, and private stakeholders to restore and enhance the Big Wood River and beyond. Our goals are to restore natural river function to the greatest extent possible to ensure healthy habitat for local fish and wildlife populations.

READ MORE ABOUT HOW WE HELP TO RESTORE RIVER HEALTH AND HABITAT THROUGHOUT THE HEART OF IDAHO

Be sure to watch the videos describing the projects for a comprehensive on the ground look at the work we do.

SUN PEAK PRESERVE AND RIVER RESTORATION

About: The Wood River Land Trust has been working with the City of Ketchum, community members of the Hulen Meadows neighborhood, river enthusiasts, and community partners like Higher Ground on an exciting project.  We’ve long wanted to restore the Big Wood River at the BLM’s Sun Peak Recreational Area.  As part of that, residents had asked if we could find a way to restore the Hulen Meadows pond as well.  Our vision is to design a space at the Hulen Meadows Pond that can help create a profound connection to nature for people who traditionally can’t utilize the wild spaces throughout our valley. After a variety of public stakeholder meetings, the community came to a consensus that it is a priority to create options for amenities and access for persons with disabilities at the Hulen Meadows Pond.

The Wood River Land Trust has created three amenity concept plans focusing ADA access to amenities like a viewing platform, restrooms, and picnic areas, and to reduce pedestrian conflicts with vehicular traffic.  The plans will be reviewed by professionals that focus on designing amenities for persons with disabilities.

The amenity plans and other materials from public meetings held so far can be found at ketchum.idaho.org/sunpeak

Ryan Santo, Restoration Specialist for the Wood River Land Trust and project coordinator for the Sun Peak Preserve exclaims that “This is an exciting opportunity to provide access for all to enjoy the Hulen Meadows Pond and the Big Wood River!”

We know it is imperative that as a community, we look out for all of our members — creating accessible spaces such as the Sun Peak Preserve is the perfect place to start.  The Wood River Land Trust is excited to bring the magic of wild spaces and happy places to all members of our community.

LOWER HOWARD PRESERVE RIVER RESTORATION

About: This project is part of a mile-long design from Broadford Bridge down to Riverside Estates on the Big Wood River. A large stakeholder group consisting of City of Bellevue, Flood Control District #9, Diversion 45 Canal District, Friends of the Howard Preserve, several private landowners, Trout Unlimited and Wood River Land Trust, all contributed funds to this design.

The purpose of the design was to find flood mitigation solutions for private property and enhance floodplain and natural fluvial processes.

This project will reconnect floodplain and side channel habitat during bank full flow and increase in-stream fish habitat diversity by constructing a large wood structure and boulder cluster formations. These treatments will slow down velocities of flood flows to decrease erosion of private property to residences downstream of the project area. These treatments will also enhance floodplain habitat on the southern half of the Howard Preserve that will benefit fish and
wildlife species. Below is the stream restoration design. Funding sources are a flood mitigation grant with Idaho Water Resource Board, Flood Control District #9, and City of Bellevue. We estimate the project to be implemented by January, 2021.

COLORADO GULCH RIVER RESTORATION

About:The Stream Alteration Permit (SAP) has been approved and construction could start as early as October 2020.

The final draft of the Big Wood River Atlas was posted in March and recommended our stream restoration project as it will remove rip-rap and restore natural channel processes to a reach that has been impacted by artificial confinement.

The last 8 months we have been working with the County on a conceptual design for a suspension bridge that would span most of the floodway. The proposed bridge would be approximately 500 feet in length and early estimates could be in the range of $1.2 to $2 million. The County is interested in pursuing this option since it is the ideal bridge for this area that would allow the natural fluvial processes to occur and provide access year round during most snow pack conditions. Funding would come from a combination of donations and grants. The County already has approximately $250,000 from a FEMA program for bridge construction. As this is the best bridge for to accomplish our goals, we realize that implementing a suspension of this size way be difficult.

HAILEY GREENWAY MASTER PLAN

About: Nestled within the trees and along the banks of the Big Wood River, the natural trails of the Hailey Greenway provide the community a refuge and a deep connection to nature. The Hailey Greenway is a place to walk your dog, to hear the river trickling over rocks, to meet friends, and to celebrate a loved one with a heart shaped stone. It is a special place that is physically very close to the bustling Hailey downtown, but experientially another world away. It is a place to be cared for and celebrated as described in this Master Plan so that it can continue to connect land, water, and our community for generations to come.

The Hailey Greenway includes lands along 1.5-miles of the Big Wood River from the Bullion Street bridge to the Colorado Gulch Road that are primarily owned or controlled by the Wood River Land Trust (WRLT) or the City of Hailey. The Greenway encompasses approximately 350 acres and includes two public parks, Lions Park and Heagle Park, as well as open space land owned by the City of Hailey and the Draper Wood River Preserve and the Colorado Gulch Preserve owned by the Wood River Land Trust. This continuous stretch of land that includes the riparian area of the Big Wood River is a tremendous asset to the community providing recreational opportunities for residents and visitors, habitat for wildlife, and space for natural floodplain function.
This Master Plan was developed collaboratively with the City of Hailey, the Wood River Land Trust, and the community, and it includes guidelines for future development and preservation of the Greenway, as well as prioritization of future projects. Other planning documents and studies that pertain to the Greenway include the Big Wood Geomorphic Assessment (Biota, 2016), the Hailey Parks, Lands & Trails Master Plan, the Hailey and Blaine County Comprehensive Plans, and others. This Master Plan is a living document and should be updated frequently as new information, plans, projects, or events unfold.

STREAM AND HABITAT RESTORATION AFTER THE SHARPS FIRE

About: In the Little Wood drainage, west of Bellevue, Idaho was the site of the 2018 Sharps Fire.  This massive wildfire burned 65,000 acres of rangeland.  What was once sweeping rangeland habitat for wildlife, including sage-grouse, and grazing land for livestock was engulfed in flames. 

And yet, out of that tragedy came some fascinating discoveries.  Aerial images after the fire revealed some emerald green oases that the fire seemed to have skipped over all together.

After some investigation, we determined that the green patches that survived the fire were inhabited by beaver.  Either existing beaver dams, or the sites of old beaver dams, that have created ponds and floodplain and were still marshy and filled with lush vegetation.

Now, we are creating human-made beaver habitat post-fire to create diverse habitats that will welcome back the mammals and birds that used this land.  

These structures – made of pounded posts interwoven with willow branches – mimic the work that beavers do by creating pools and capturing water and sediment.  Without this kind of rehabilitation, these little tributaries would slice deeper and deeper into the fire-damaged hills, creating steep banks that can’t hold riparian vegetation.  The water would move faster through the landscape, increasing the sediment that is carried  down to the Little Wood River and subsequent reservoirs.  This type of restoration is becoming more popular, because it can bring back floodplain areas, complex habitat, and create wet meadows that are important for sage-grouse and other wildlife.   

Our hope is that these stream restoration projects could create even more fire resilience in the future.  We are restoring this land for tributary health and to accommodate the animals that need it now, but we are also hoping that in the face of a changing climate; that these restoration sites will prove as resilient as the beaver-inhabited sites did in 2018.

Of course, the Wood River Land Trust isn’t doing this alone.  Along with our partners, we have been working to protect and restore the land that connects the Wood River Valley over to the Craters of the Moon National Monument to create a large migration and habitat corridors that also preserve historic rangeland and rural culture.  A project on this scale is only possible because of the many partners that help make it happen. 

  • Scott Shahverdian, Project Manager, Anabranch Solutions
  • Terry Gregory, Habitat Biologist with Idaho Dept. of Fish and Game; Meribeth Lomkin, Lands Manager at Idaho Dept. of Lands
  • Josh Uriarte, Wildlife Biologist at the Governor’s Office of Species Conservation
  • In addition to these four partners, we’d also like to thank The Nature Conservancy, the Conservation Fund, Idaho Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the Idaho Wildlife Federation, Flat Top Sheep Company, Muldoon Grazing Association, the University of Idaho, the BLM, the Idaho Conservation Corps, and a smattering of staff and volunteers that came to lend some extra muscle!

BOXCAR BEND PRESERVE RIVER RESTORATION

About: Historically, the Union Pacific Railroad ran through the upland portion of the Property. In the 1980s, after railroad use was discontinued, the tracks fell down the riverbank due to extreme erosion. Erosion continued to threaten Highway 75, and in an effort to protect the bank and the highway, car bodies and railroad cars were placed next to and in the river. Sun Valley Partners, the developers of the adjacent Rainbow Bend Subdivision, donated the parcel to The Nature Conservancy in 1995 who then transferred it to the Wood River Land Trust in 1997.  In 1988, Friends of the Big Wood River, a local volunteer group, restored the west back to a more gradual slope, installed bank stabilization structures, and planted riparian vegetation.

Our Boxcar Bend Preserve is a highly visible area that sees a considerable amount of public use and is cited as being one of the most popular fishing locations in the State of Idaho. This preserve ensures public access to the Big Wood River via established trails and protects relatively natural fish and wildlife habitat. Boxcar Bend adds acreage to the greenway along the Big Wood River, protecting the floodplain from development and offering river access to the public.