Bull River Re-vegetation


The banks of the Bull River are largely dominated by reed canarygrass, but ten-year-old plantings – our first re-vegetation efforts in the Bull River – can be seen taking hold along the bend of the river.

Summary of Bull River Re-vegetation Efforts

From Berray - Edwards-Stein-Zigan

Weed barrier is laid along the banks of the river to suppress reed canarygrass.

The Lower Clark Fork Watershed Group (LCFWG), along with the Green Mountain Conservation District (GMCD) and other partners, is implementing a large-scale re-vegetation efforts along the banks of the Bull River, which are currently largely dominated by the non-native and highly competitive reed canarygrass. In order for plantings to be effective, the reed canarygrass must first be killed. This is accomplished by laying down a heavy fabric barrier over mats of reed canarygrass. This fabric, left in place for 1-2 years, will kill the grass and leave a space for other plants to establish.

After the the weed barrier has been installed, the areas are also fenced in order to protect the young plants to be planted from wildlife browse until they are established enough to withstand this pressure.

Bull River Re-vegetation Photo

Enclosures are built to protect young plants as they first establish.

A variety of native vegetation is then planted within these enclosures, including: western red cedar, willow, alder, water birch, choke cherry, service berry, golden currant, red osier dogwood, elderberry, black hawthorn, woods rose, black cottonwood, white pine, Engelmann spruce, and western larch. They are then maintained and protected for the next 5-10 years, until they are strong enough to withstand competition from reed canarygrass and wildlife browse pressure.

In our most current effort, the LCFWG and GMCD are working with local landowners to implement this re-vegetation technique throughout the mainstem Bull River. With funding from Montana Department of Environmental Quality, Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks, Montana Department of Natural Resources, and Avista Corporation, work commenced in 2014. In June 2015, over 14,000 square yards of fabric were laid on 7 different sites initiating the re-vegetation process. In fall of 2016, planting began with the harvest and planting of 7500 willow starts. Planting will continue in 2017 with thousands of containerized plants on each property.

Our goal for the Bull River

This project is anticipated to transform the Bull River’s banks into a healthy riparian area that promotes water quality and provides better habitat for native fish and wildlife. The paintings below, by local landowner Judy Triboulet, demonstrate the possible transformation of the Bull River from its current condition now to its anticipated state over the next 25 and 50 years.

Latest on the Bull River