In 2001, with deep concerns for dwindling trout populations and perceived declines in water quality, a group of ranchers, fishermen, and scientists formed Friends of the Teton River. FTR was designed to be a science-based, watershed-centric NGO with a mandate to recover fish populations by improving the health of the Teton River Watershed. At the time, very little data had been collected specifically about native cutthroat, their habitat, and watershed conditions impacting the fishery.
Today, FTR leads the field in western native trout science and research. Aided by agency partners, and some of the brightest fisheries scientists in the region, FTR has collected some of the most comprehensive data for inland trout species anywhere.
Our research has shown that the Teton River’s Cutthroat depend on migrating up tributary streams to spawn. For tributaries that have productive populations of native trout, restoring connected migration routes free of obstacles impediments, or entrapment, is how we improve their chances for reproductive success.
Many sections of the Teton River and its tributaries have been impacted by uses and development that have led to poor water quality, erosion, and a lack of healthy habitat for fish and wildlife. We approach stream restoration as a collaborative process, using innovative bioengineering techniques to stabilize banks and channels.
FTR has a number of programs and projects aimed at improving stream flows and water management, protecting floodplains, and ensuring the overall health of stream corridors. We work with stakeholders using cooperative solutions, and market-based incentives, to improve the natural function of our riparian ecosystems.
Since 2001, FTR has completed a variety of projects to improve habitat, connectivity, and natural stream processes.
The Teton River has increasing trout numbers, species diversity, and rebounding native trout numbers that are far beyond what fisheries biologists have seen elsewhere. Between 2003-2017, Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout densities in the Teton River increased from fourteen cutthroat per mile to 936 cutthroat per mile, in some stretches. Overall trout densities (for all species) increased as much as nine times, from 420 trout per mile to 3,867 trout per mile. The data strongly suggests that these improvements in the fishery are the result of the cumulative restoration, conservation, and stewardship efforts of FTR, landowners, and our project partners.