Trumpeter Swan Habitat Enhancement
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Private landowner, WGFD and FWS Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program.

The primary objective of this ongoing project is to construct, restore, and enhance shallow water wetland ponds suitable for nesting and foraging by trumpeter swans in the Green River Basin. The trumpeter swan is a WGFD Priority Species 1 in the state. Due to range expansion efforts, new pairs have established in the Green River Basin and production of cygnets has increased. To ensure adequate shallow water wetland habitat will be available for the growing number of resident swans, WGFD initiated a habitat planning project in 2003 to 1) identify and survey potential swan summer habitat on private and public lands in the Green River Basin; 2) prepare site management plans for high priority wetland projects; and 3) identify potential funding partners so priority projects can be completed in a timely fashion to keep ahead of swan habitat needs. Projects funded by the WLCI contribute to this long-term effort by establishing additional shallow water wetland habitat for resident trumpeter swans and other wetland dependent avian species in southwest Wyoming such as migratory shorebirds, waterfowl, and brood-rearing sage-grouse.

 

Since 2007, over 50 acres of wetland habitat has been constructed on private lands south of Pinedale funded by WLCI and other partners. The WLCI has funded trumpeter swan habitat enhancements on Rimfire Ranch and Swift Ranch since 2008. Enhancements on the Swift Ranch include the creation of 5.5 acres of shallow water foraging and nesting habitat adjacent to the New Fork River, and the building and installation of two nesting islands on the Swift Ranch reservoir. The Swift Pond was constructed in 2010 and filled in the spring of 2011. A pair of swans produced four young and an additional adult pair was observed in September 2011 on the Swift Pond. In 2012, work included construction of an island for nesting, installing a head gate on a feeder to the pond, and final reclamation and cleanup. Four wetland ponds were constructed on the Rimfire Ranch near Daniel, WY between 2008 and 2010. The ranch lies in a major flyway for trumpeter swan and other waterfowl. The fortification of a dike on Rimfire Ranch was completed in 2012, and pre-planted vegetation mats were installed. In 2014, a grant agreement was completed with Rimfire Ranch to complete work to fortify a dike on the Sago Pond, fix the Agridrain as needed on the Trumpeter Pond, and replace pipes and rework dikes as needed on the two ponds. Plans to correct design flaws in the Trumpeter and Sago ponds were postponed from 2014 to 2015 due to wet summer conditions. The pond was refilled during the spring of 2015 and is now functioning at full capacity. In 2015, Wyoming Game and Fish Department and Fish and Wildlife Service Partners Program personnel conducted site visits to document wildlife use of enhanced wetland habitat and ponds on the Rimfire Ranch, Lazy River Ranch, Circle Nine Ranch and the Swift Ranch. The project completed 111 acres of monitoring across one wetland (20 acres), two ponds (six and 12 acres), and one reservoir (73 acres) during 2016. Alder Environmental was hired in 2017 to further evaluate the Lazy River Ranch pond site with regards to water inflow, soil percolation, and storage capacity. With information from field evaluations, a modified site plan was developed, which reduces the size of the pond and modifies the source of water to include both irrigation ditch and groundwater sources. We plan to implement construction of the modified site plan prior to June 2018. The site has been monitored from the air by WGFD each summer since construction. The USFWS Partners Program is collaborating with WGFD on continuing work at the Rimfire Ranch as well as the Lazy River Ranch.

 

In 2013, a new five-year agreement between WLCI and WGFD was approved and wetland plans were developed at a site on a major flyway and nesting area on Lazy River Ranch. Preliminary designs for the construction of two wetland ponds using old oxbow channels adjacent to the New Fork River were approved by the landowner during 2013. In 2014, NEPA, permitting and design work was completed for the two ponds and the 12-acre Homestead Pond was constructed and filled on the Lazy River Ranch. Outreach included a field tour with the Intermountain Joint Venture board and presentations at the Wyoming Wildlife Society meeting and the Jackson Hole Wildlife Symposium. Monitoring conducted in 2014 consisted of site visits to existing ponds and three aerial surveys of the trumpeter swan population in the Green River Basin. WGFD will continue to monitor these ponds for wildlife use and vegetation establishment. In addition to monitoring, future plans include repair work on Rimfire Ranch, potentially building a second pond on Lazy River Ranch, and assessments that are designed to characterize wetlands used for nesting by the expanding population of resident Trumpeter Swans in the Green River Basin. Outcomes of these assessments will be used to augment existing wetland habitats and to improve designs for future development projects.

                                                             

The Trumpeter Swan Habitat Enhancement Project addresses the priority area’s sensitive species issue of limited early spring and nesting habitat for trumpeter swans. It supports the Sublette LDPT in meeting its objectives to create, restore and maintain wetlands for trumpeter swans and other wildlife species. In addition to supporting the pond constructions mentioned above, the WLCI aims to protect existing trumpeter swan habitat. The Tyler Place Conservation Easement (see project #4) conserves and maintains existing swan habitat including the Duck Creek Pond wetland project site. Project partners include landowners, WGFD, USFWS, WWNRT, Upper Green River Grazing Association, Ducks Unlimited, and BLM.

Aldre Environmental was hired to further evaluate the Lazy River Ranch pond site with regards to water inflow, soil percolation, and storage capacity. With information from field evaluations, a modified site plan was developed, which reduces the size of the pond and modifies the source of water to include both irrigation ditch and groundwater sources. We plan to implement construction of the modified site plan prior to June 2018.