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HFF's Top 10 for 2021

At the end of each year, the Henry's Fork Foundation (HFF) takes a moment to reflect back on some memorable events and accomplishments from the year. Here are 10 things we're grateful for in 2021. All of this work is made possible thanks to your support. Thank you.

10. River clean up

HFF hosted a River Clean Up on July 22 to pick up trash at access sites and along the banks of the Henry’s Fork near Ashton. Organized by Stanford intern, Sydney Schmitter, five crews of river clean up volunteers, staff and interns collected enough trash to overflow HFF’s previously empty dumpster – including one abandoned couch! HFF is grateful that, while taking necessary health and safety precautions, we were once again able to include volunteers in clean up events and fieldwork efforts, and the response has been heartwarming. No sooner did we send out a call for volunteers, than responses came flooding in. There was not a single week in summer of 2021 without at least one volunteer joining us. Thank you to all the volunteers who contributed over 430 hours to the Henry’s Fork Foundation’s work in 2021!

Read the full 2021 volunteer report here.

Interested in volunteering with HFF in the future? Sign up here.

9. Upper Snake Collaborative Farms & Fish Program continues to grow

As many know, the Upper Snake Collaborative Farms and Fish Program is a partnership between HFF, The Nature Conservancy, Trout Unlimited, and Friends of the Teton River. Farms and Fish is a voluntary program that works with local farmers to reduce irrigation demand through a variety of tools, including leasing land to defer irrigation, soil health initiatives, new markets, crop conversions, and installation of modeling and scheduling software on irrigation infrastructure. So far in the year 2021 the Upper Snake Collaborative Farms and Fish Program has been able to solidify a variety of bright spots in a crop year that could have been full of struggles due to large-scale significant drought. The program engaged with more agricultural producers in-person, as well as virtually at workshops and field days. These opportunities proved once again to be extremely valuable in passing on information and increasing conservation participation. The Farms and Fish program also reduced late season demand on Island Park Reservoir. Voluntary contracts with agricultural producers saw an increase in participation in our winter wheat conversions from spring planted grain, which allows irrigation to finish sooner and eliminates one or two irrigations in mid-late July. The program is also looking to partner with breweries on a “Trout-Safe” beer, modeled after the “Salmon-Safe” program in the northwest. A new soil health initiative has also come forth with a focus on building up the soil organic matter percentage of our soils. A 1% increase of soil organic matter results in over 25,000 gallons of water holding capacity per acre. The Farms and Fish program is estimated to have conserved at least 1,200 acre-feet of water for the Henry’s Fork in 2021.

8. HFF launches a new website

In early 2020, HFF learned that the website would need to be reconstructed on a new platform. So, HFF decided to take the opportunity to step back, strategize, and design a site that worked even better for current and prospective members. In an effort led by Graphic Design and Marketing Coordinator, Paige Cahoon, HFF solicited feedback from members, staff, and board members via meetings, phone calls, and a survey. Staff took a look at HFF’s programs and the way the existing website was being used. Then, the website was redesigned to better reflect the work being done and make the content members and visitors wanted, more accessible. After six months of hard work, the new website is officially up and running. We owe a huge thank you to the HFF Board of Directors and the many members, and even family members, who provided thoughtful feedback on a new website design. Please don’t hesitate to provide feedback on the new website if you see ways we can continue to improve.

7. Economic Value Study finds that anglers spend $41 million per year in the region

In early 2021, HFF completed analysis of data from a survey of angler use and expenditure that was conducted from 2016-2019. Anglers fishing Henry’s Lake, the Henry’s Fork and tributaries spend $41 million per year in the immediate six-county region in eastern Idaho. The net annual economic gain from non-resident anglers is $17 million, accounting for 11% of the region’s total leisure and tourism sector. While angler effort on Henry’s Lake and Henry’s Fork has remained relatively constant over recent decades, that on the Teton River has increased four-fold since 2003.

Read the full report:

Economic Value HF Watershed_FINAL
Download PDF • 4.56MB

6. Water-quality monitoring expands to Big Springs

In 2021, HFF added a permanent, real-time water-quality station at Big Springs, bringing the total number of permanent stations on the South Fork and Henry’s Fork to 14. The Big Springs sonde will monitor conditions at the river’s pristine headwaters, to distinguish changes due to large-scale environmental factors from those due to human activities farther downstream in the watershed. The sonde is paired with a new real-time streamflow gage installed at Big Springs by U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in 2021.

5. Restoration and monitoring on tributaries to the South Fork

Phase 1 of the Bridge-to-Bridge Rainey Creek restoration project was completed in early 2021 and is already showing positive improvements for the fishery. Anglers and others have spotted redds (trout spawning beds) and increased signs of Cutthroat Trout in the restored reach. The South Fork Initiative (SFI) also contributed to the restoration at the US Forest Service workstation by helping secure funds for the project and coordinating volunteer efforts to put up fencing to protect the reach when there is stock on the property. Two additional restoration projects are now underway, one on Upper Third Creek (tributary to Rainey Creek) and Phase 2 of the Bridge-to-Bridge project on Rainey Creek proper. Additionally, the SFI had support from an intern in summer 2021 as local BYU-Idaho student, Ethan Taylor, was tasked to monitor and document completed and upcoming restoration projects. Ethan made maps of each location and compiled information on stream length, restoration design and plans, objectives, and short-term and long-term monitoring efforts for each reach. Additionally, the SFI also installed temperature loggers in select locations along Rainey Creek to monitor changes in water temperature as the collective effects of these restoration efforts reduce solar loading and decrease the channel width, consequently leading to lower water temperatures in Rainey Creek. These projects occurred in collaboration with, and made possible by, state, federal, and local NGO partners, as well as volunteers and landowners.

4. HFF expands assessment of river use

As concerns over recreational use of the region’s rivers increase, HFF expanded its assessments of river use to the Box Canyon and Stone Bridge reaches of the river in 2021. HFF also provided technical assistance to Teton County in repeating HFF’s 2018 assessment of river use on the upper Teton River. Over the Memorial Day-Labor Day season in 2021, 14,800 parties floated Box Canyon, while 15,500 parties floated the Stone Bridge to Ashton reach. By comparison, HFF estimated floater use on the Big Springs Water Trail in 2019 at over 37,000 parties. Anglers accounted for 53% of all floaters in Box Canyon and 39% on the Stone Bridge reach. On the upper Teton River, total use (floating and non-floating) increased from 51,252 parties in 2018 to 65,839 in 2021, a 28% increase. HFF plans to repeat use assessments every few years on key river reaches.

3. Aquatic insect communities improve

In 2021, HFF sampled aquatic macroinvertebrates at six locations on the Henry’s Fork and three on the South Fork, marking the seventh year of our “modern” monitoring program. Two notable observations over the last two years were: 1) a significant increase in mayflies, stoneflies, and caddisflies at Last Chance in 2020, likely in response to a springtime freshet flow in 2019 that moved an estimated 550 tons of sediment out of the Island Park-to-Pinehaven reach, and 2) a significant improvement in habitat quality at the Lower South Fork and Canyon South Fork locations. We also now have enough data detect long-term trends on the Henry’s Fork and found that nearly all macroinvertebrate and habitat metrics have improved over time, particularly since the early 1990s.

2. HFF's Executive Director celebrates 10-year anniversary

HFF’s Executive Director, Brandon Hoffner celebrated 10 years with the Foundation in September of 2021. Brandon arrived in Ashton with a wide background in the natural resource world and a specific passion for fly fishing and the incredible rivers of the West. This combination may have influenced his unique and effective leadership style: an ability to not only see the big picture, but to motivate the people around him to achieve uncommon results. Under Brandon’s leadership, the organization has taken on a culture of “thinking big” and has developed an expert and intrepid staff unafraid to blaze the trail and defy expectations of what a “small nonprofit” can achieve. Brandon’s life-long dedication to conservation continues here at the Foundation, we hope for many years to come.

1. Making the most of the first drought year since 2016

By most measures, water year 2021 was worse than 2016, the last drought year in the watershed. Peak snow water equivalent (SWE), date of peak SWE, total precipitation, and April-September streamflow were all worse in 2021 than in 2016. June 2021 was the driest and hottest on record. Natural flow in was 75% of average, ranking 41st out of the last 44 years. However, Island Park Reservoir ended the water year at 60,462 ac-ft (45% full), compared with 47% full on average and a mere 26,739 ac-ft (20% full) in 2016. Poor water rights, lower-than-average diversion, and rain in July and August accounted for about 40% of the improved reservoir carryover, although at a cost to agricultural producers. The remaining 60% was due to precision water management—supported by new remote-controlled irrigation infrastructure and HFF’s improved hydrologic information. Over the past four years, end-of-season reservoir content has exceeded statistical expectations by 20,000 ac-ft, after accounting for available water supply. That’s equivalent to a reduction in summertime outflow from the reservoir of 112 cfs and an increase in winter outflow of 84 cfs.

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