Cooperative Efforts Improve Watershed
Bates Hole is a 30-mile area west of Casper between Alcova Reservoir and Muddy Mountain and on either side of Wyoming Highway 487.
Within the Bates Hole area lies the Garrett grazing allotment. The allotment consists of over 48,000 acres (75 square miles) divided into six pastures. Landownership is mixed, containing approximately 45% private land, 47% BLM-administered public land, and 8% state land. Contained inside the Garrett allotment are three major drainages: Bates Creek, Stinking Creek, and Bolton Creek. Lawn Creek is a tributary to Stinking Creek. The watershed covers 7,500 acres (11.8 sq. miles), most of which is on federal surface.
Although Lawn Creek is just a small part of the entire grazing allotment, changes in its management can have impacts on the rest of the allotment as well. The creek has traditionally been on the stock trail from the Bates Hole area to summer pastures in the Laramie Range. Over the years, this use has influenced conditions in and around Lawn Creek.
The current stock trail is also a county road which actually travels up the channel of Lawn Creek at one point. Road construction has had an impact on the stream.
A significant amount of uranium exploration occurred in the drainage area in the 1970's. This exploration and subsequent lease maintenance resulted in the creation of many roads and trails, some of which have contributed to accelerated erosion.
The area is also popular for big game and bird hunting, as well as general recreation. Off-road vehicles have caused watershed damage, disturbed the soil surface and created pathways for erosion.
Livestock were concentrated in areas with reliable water causing impacts to riparian habitat and stream bank stability. Cattle tended to congregate along the stream channel resulting in localized over use.
Mother nature has also had a hand in impacting Lawn Creek. A large flood in 1981 sent nearly 5,000 cubic feet per second of water flowing down the channel. This caused significant changes in the channel of Lawn Creek. A large gully had formed and was actively eroding, impacting riparian habitat and degrading water quality. Riparian habitat is crucial to the survival of mammals, birds, fish, insects, reptiles amphibians, as well as an important part of watersheds and stream courses.
A cooperative effort was required to adequately address the issues in the watershed. Many parties were involved, with the primary players being the landowner, the BLM, and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD). In order to improve conditions in Lawn Creek:
structures would be installed to stabilize channel gully;
a riparian pasture would be created by installing additional fence;
additional water sources would be developed to improve livestock distribution;
a rotational grazing system would be implemented to better control of the timing and duration of livestock use along the stream; and,
prescribed fire would be used to increase forage production and improve habitat condition
The grade control structures were armored with large rip-rap material. The Lawn Creek project relied on cooperation from many--the landowner granted access to private lands, the WGFD designed and constructed the structure, the BLM purchased the sheet piling, the Bureau of Reclamation provided the rip-rap material at no cost, and Texaco Marketing and Refining provided additional funding via a mitigation account.
The newly created riparian pasture separated the main channel of Lawn Creek from the upland portion of the watershed. The lack of reliable water in upland areas resulted in poor livestock distribution. Livestock access to a primary source of water needed to be replaced. Thus, a solar well pump was installed at the Lone Tree well near the stock driveway.
Prescribed fire was used to increase vegetative production, improve wildlife habitat and watershed condition, and encourage livestock to move up into the watershed, away from channel bottoms. Approximately 850 acres were burned in a mosaic pattern.
Cooperative efforts require a significant amount of time and effort. The hard work and cooperation has clearly paid off and produced some dramatic results.