Spring maintenance and planting in the Bull River
June 30, 2018
This May and June, partners were actively working in the Bull River drainage to continue revegetation efforts along the mainstem. Working with the Green Mountain Conservation District, Kootenai National Forest, and Montana Conservation Corps (MCC), the Lower Clark Fork Watershed Group helped plant over 1,000 trees and shrubs. Additional work included monitoring the condition of revegetation efforts, fixing fencing that had been damaged over the winter and from high runoff, and weeding exclosures where nonnatives such as Canadian thistle were present.
These efforts are a part of a large ongoing project in the Bull River drainage, aimed at addressing water quality impairments and improving habitat for native fish and wildlife. This effort included the installation of 148 revegetation exclosures and 282 individual plantings on nine private properties and additional public lands along approximately 14,200 feet of streambank. Over time, native trees and shrubs will replace invasive reed canarygrass, provide improved bank stability, and generally enhance the ecological health of riparian areas along the Bull River. Reed canarygrass, originally introduced for hay in the mid-20th century, has spread along the river and competes with native vegetation. It is a poor alternative to the diverse roots systems of native trees and shrubs for providing bank stability and contributes to excessive erosion along the riverbanks. Exclosures are built over a multi-year timeframe: heavy fabric is laid to suppress reed canarygrass, fenced to protect from browse from wildlife, and then planted with native trees and shrubs two years later. Individual plantings can be installed over a shorter period: reed canarygrass is mechanically removed from a small area where one tree or shrub is planted, surrounded with fabric for weed suppression, and caged to prevent browse.
The latest effort was in part funded through Clean Water Act Section 319 funding, administered by the Montana Department of Environmental Quality. This grant concluding at the end of June, with a final post-implementation tour on June 27. Partners have now been working with private landowners in the drainage for over 15 years on revegetation projects such as above. Over time, the past, present, and future efforts will contribute to a cumulative improvement to bank stability and streamside health on the Bull River.