On many Western streams, it’s tough for trout to hang on in the face of drought, low flows and high temperatures. This article in Wyofile highlights one way to address the problem–water leasing. For several years, Trout Unlimited has been working to get a water leasing bill passed in Wyoming that would give ranchers and farmers the option to get paid to keep water in their streams for the benefit of trout and wildlife.
Water leasing? Here’s how it works: A rancher, if he so chooses, can lease some of his water right temporarily to a group like Trout Unlimited to boost flows in a stream, after the spring/summer irrigation season is done. As Wyoming Water Project director Cory Toye pointed out in the piece, it’s an opportunity for some ranchers to make a little extra money while benefiting trout habitat. Their water right remains unchanged and unharmed. If they want, ranchers can even lease some of the improved stream stretches to angling for additional income.
TU helped pass water leasing 20 years ago in Montana, and it’s worked great, with documented improvements in fish populations. Studies show that keeping these streams wet boosts fish populations and angling opportunites downstream and upstream.
Let’s hope the Wyoming Legislature gives this bill a serious look this coming session.