PO Box 239

Emigrant, MT 59027

upperyellowstone@gmail.com

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© 2016 Upper Yellowstone Watershed Group

 

budget [ buhj-it ]

noun

  1. an estimate, often itemized, of expected income/inputs and expenses/outputs for a given period in the future.

  2. a plan of operations based on such an estimate

  3. an itemized allotment of funds, time, resources for a given period

verb

  1. to plan allotment of (funds, resources)

  2. to deal with specific funds or resources in a budget

synonyms: account, aggregate, cost, funds, means, quantity, resources, fiscal estimate, spending plan

We are working towards a water and open spaces (rangeland) budget in terms of inputs and outputs  within the Upper Yellowstone watershed boundaries. A simple, annual budget forecast of "how much is coming in" (and from where) and "how much is leaving" is what we want to provide for community. Unlike other watersheds in the country, the Upper Yellowstone currently is fortunate to have a strong water and open spaces balance sheet. Time will tell if forecasted climate changes and sub-division can keep it that way.

Water Budget

We have much of the data (evapo-transpiration estimates, flow in / flow out, consumptive uses), but are still missing some critical components (e.g. groundwater inputs, irrigation returns and when, thermal surveys). In terms of consumptive use, there is no question that irrigation and stock use dominate consumptive use of surface water, and that ground water is a volumetrically insignificant amount of total water withdrawls in Park County. What story is not told with this data is that irrigation has a minor impact on base flows (which species of e.g. trout have evolved to current populations with) or water temperature. There are several reasons: the amount used is volumetrically insignificant (source USGS and MBMG) to the inputs and not all of the irrigated water is used (it returns via groundwater from leaky canals; a percentage of sprinkler water is not absorbed by the plant). But, we have new challenges that appear to be real threats to our water budget. With changes to snowpack due to climate changes, there can be much earlier (and/or lower) runoffs combined with warmer late summers that result in warmer water temperatures in late summer. This can impact keystone species like trout and the tourism economy that comes to catch them. Irrigation canals and ponds (and flood irrigation) can help offset late season temperature rises, by distributing water and leaking it back in to the groundwater table, which returns more slowly to the main stem watershed (for best practices see this research from the Henry's Fork Foundation). Yet, a water budget is not only about quantity, it is about quality. Any water budget "should" factor quality in to the equation...we do.

 

We are looking for volunteer graphic designers to help us create a water budget infographic which leverages our Data Monitoring and Assessment projects.

 

In the meantime, chew on the below long-term study of instream flow data for the Upper Yellowstone. The below is an annual flow graph of the Yellowstone River before it flows in to Yankee Jim Canyon. It is based on tree-ring studies that allow us to look back in time to 1700. For the full report on surface water supply on the Upper Yellowstone download the report here

  • Roughly 22,826 irrigated acres of pasture and hay are in Paradise Valley (out of a total 61,453 privately owned acres), which can produce up to 6x the forage for wildlife than non-irrigated lands.

  • About 5 feet of water per acre is used annually, which is less than 15% of the amount diverted. The remainder goes in to groundwater tables or returns to the main stem.

  • The 30 year average in-stream flow of water on the Yellowstone River at Corwin Springs is 2M acre/ft annually from April-Sep. Roughly 80k acre/ft (4%) of that is used for irrigation annually.

Open Space Budget

 

Ranching and agriculture plays a key role in preserving wide open spaces on private lands. These private open spaces house wildlife that roam between public and private lands, often coming to the private land to feed on irrigated fields and escape the sometimes intense pressure of public lands use. Agricultural producers, for example, generate on average 16 times the forage that a typical public land does, which (after livestock usage) is roughly 5x more of the forage for wildlife than an acre of non-irrigated land produces. The elk, deer and antelope know that and their population adjusts upwards accordingly. With the elk, come the predators, and then the carcasses, and then the large raptors, and so on. And with the wildlife and undeveloped views, come the tourists and recreational users (e.g. hunters, birders, hikers) and the economy they drive. 

 

If "open space" and the wildlife it supports is a shared value with the tourism and recreation economy, then it behooves us all to develop an "open space" budget for Paradise Valley. And the costs for those "open spaces" should be fairly distributed with those who value it. We have most of the data (acreage estimates, parcel sizes, population growth estimates, irrigated forage) and are in the process of an infographic that will help the local community create a business plan that protects the product of our beautiful valley.

 

In the meantime, the following maps and statistics will help you understand some of the major components to our current open spaces budget. Note: we have not yet broken the data down in to Paradise Valley...instead we are presenting the entire Park County data set.

  • 57% of Park county is public lands (49 percent of which are USFS). Of the USFS lands, % are designated and managed as “wilderness areas”. Lands owned by the State of Montana total about 34k acres and there are other state lands managed by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

  • In part due to this large supply of public lands and as a gateway community to YNP, Park County ranks #1 in Montana in non-resident traveler expenditures among major destination counties (per capita).

  • In 2017, the bed tax generated $1.7m in tax revenue for the local tourism board. Unlike taxes/fees paid by hunters and fishers, none of the tourism tax revenue goes in to the conservation of open lands and clean water - public or private.

  • Privately owned lands in Park County are shown with white backgrounds and these total 725,645 acres, which is about 43 percent of the county land total. Paradise Valley contains about 228,000 of these privately owned acres.

  • Roughly 774,000 acres of land (including public land leases) in farms in all of Park County. Both the % of land in farms AND the average size of farms are both decreasing (source)...both trends of sub-development.

Paradise Valley Land Cover Distribution