The Wyoming Game and Fish Department has named a South Park ranching family with a long lineage in Jackson Hole among the “landowners of the year.”
The Lockhart family, including Kelly, Elizabeth, Cody and Chase, are the recipients of this year’s award for the department’s Jackson Region. Their selection is a thank you for taking on habitat restoration work along Spring, Cody and Blue Crane creeks, which has boosted the quality of spawning conditions for cutthroat trout that run upstream from the Snake River, Game and Fish aquatic habitat biologist Anna Senecal said.
“They’re definitely major contributors to the greater Snake River fishery,” Senecal said of the Lockharts.
Habitat work Senecal and her predecessors have helped the family with has offset some of the negative effects of the levy system, which prevents the Snake from meandering and depositing rejuvenating sediments throughout its floodplain.
“For the most part what we’re doing is ... returning the stream to the shape and grade that’s sustainable and fits its ecological purpose,” Senecal said. “As folks interested in restoration, we go in and we mechanically simulate some of these [pre-levy] processes.”
Tactics include narrowing the streams’ widths, placing logs and rocks in the channels and hauling in gravel that’s the appropriate size for spawning, she said.
“For the most part we’re moving materials around in the system that are already there,” Senecal said.
Senecal said the Lockharts have been hands-on in their collaboration with the state on the spring-fed stream projects.
“The Lockharts are an interesting landowner because they are engaged,” she said.
The family has done everything, Senecal said, including raising funds, assisting with designs and getting their hands dirty in the implementation phases.
Kelly Lockhart said that his family has worked with the state on improving their property for wildlife since 1951.
“Our family philosophy is to leave the land better than you found it, so this is just one of the things that we do to accomplish that,” Lockhart said. “Natural resources don’t just take care of themselves, so we’re always looking at what we can do.”
Some of the Lockharts are anglers, but Kelly said that they seldom fish their property and that it hasn’t been the motivation.
“We do it for the fish, not to fish,” Lockhart said.
Game and Fish’s next collaboration with the Lockharts, tentatively, is to give Flat Creek a face lift on the family’s upper ranch just south of Jackson.