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A 'nudge' for swans
A trumpeter swan takes flight over Flat Creek on the National Elk Refuge near Jackson recently. Trumpeters are North America's largest waterfowl with a wingspan of more than 6 feet and were once shot to near extinction, primarily for their beautiful feathers used as ornamentals. An effort to restore wetlands along the Gros Ventre Driver drainage is designed to improve Jackson Hole trumpeter swan population. (Mark Gocke/Star-Tribune correspondent)

JACKSON -- A wetlands advocate says a project to restore more than 600 acres of wetlands along the Gros Ventre River drainage could improve the Jackson Hole trumpeter swan population.

Wyoming Wetlands Society President Bill Long said the $1.8 million collaboration among landowner Michael Halpin, federal, state and private interests could aid a swan known as the "Pinto Female" trumpeter.

The swan, hatched in captivity and released in the Seedskeedee Wildlife Refuge more than 100 miles south of Jackson years ago, has successfully bred in the region and taught as many as 18 fledgling birds to migrate out of the Snake River drainage during the winter.

Other swans follow the Snake River or stay in this region during winter. Another swan pond in the Gros Ventre River drainage would help the Pinto Female and her family make their traverse to the Green River, Long said.

Diversity in migration and winter ranges for the largest North American waterfowl "only makes this population more secure," Long said. The bird is considered rare but is not protected by federal endangered species laws.

The project calls for creating three ponds covering 23 acres and would re-establish the flooding of Gros Ventre oxbows. It would also aim to spread cottonwood and willow growth.

Halpin said re-establishing historic flooding patterns in the two waterways would help bring more riverside vegetation to the benefit of all species.

That flooding was disrupted as a result of using the two waterways to irrigate pastures in the area, according to an environmental paper on the restoration plan.

"Mother Nature will fix it herself if we give her a little help," Halpin said. "That's what we're trying to do, give it a little nudge."

The Bridger-Teton National Forest is seeking comments on the proposal as it prepares a more thorough review.

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