Friday, August 05, 2011

Ditch Fishing & Bison Dung Greeting Cards: A Flat Ranch Collage

Text by Flat Ranch Manager Sarah Grigg and Volunteer Host Nancy Elkins

Photos by Sarah Grigg and Chris Little

Where to begin? July has flown by and so much has taken place in so few weeks. Here is the latest news from The Nature Conservancy's Flat Ranch Preserve.

Electrofishing Irrigation Ditches

The Flat Ranch Preserve and neighboring private and state lands keep cows watered through the use of irrigation ditches that divert water from the Henry's Lake Outlet. Fish from the outlet sometimes swim into these shallow, exposed artificial channels, which may lead to fish kills when temperatures rise in late summer.

The Nature Conservancy strives to employ ranching practices that are compatible with healthy fisheries, such as erecting electric fence around streams and creeks to keep cattle from eroding banks.

In an effort to better understand the impact of these ditches on the outlet, the Flat Ranch and several local fisheries groups, including the Henry’s Fork Foundation and Idaho Department of Fish and Game, collaborated to electrofish these artificial waterways to take inventory of what is or is not living in our ditches.

An initial sweep through the West and East ditches on July 13 (when flows from the dam were exceptionally high) revealed Utah chubs, Utah suckers, and minnows (redside shiners).

While trout were not discovered during this effort, the species identified are important as forage for larger fish (such as trout), according to Henry's Lake manager Jessica Buelow. A second session on July 20 produced a single brook trout in the West ditch and similar forage species in the East.

With this data, the Flat Ranch, natural resources agencies, and other nonprofits will be better able to determine if steps need to be taken to install fish screens or fish returns on the ditches. More data will be collected in August and September to generate a broader picture of what species are using the ditches during various flows and at different times of year. Nature Art Expo a Smash Hit

The porch of The Nature Conservancy Flat Ranch turned into an outdoor "gallery" of nature art on Friday, July 22 and Saturday, July 23.

Twelve regional artists displayed their talents, ranging from willow furniture, glass fish and watercolors to inlaid wood work and even greeting cards made from bison dung!

Adding to the festive atmosphere was lovely harp music, played by 12-year-old Sarah Close of Rigby.

Visitors to the show were also treated to gourmet refreshments such as palmiers, cookies, and homemade cherry lemonade, provided by The Henry's Fork Lodge (Island Park), Reel Food on the Fly (Cameron, MT) and the Tawny Moose (Ashton).

With the warm summer weather, wildflowers in bloom throughout the yard, the harp music drifting through the air and the chatter of artists and visitors, it was the perfect venue for an art show with a nature theme.

Check back for more Flat Ranch updates on this blog, including the latest on the curlew counts and the installation of a canoe gate.

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