March 22, 2022
During 2021, the Lower Clark Fork Watershed Group helped implement four new on-the-ground projects. These efforts resulted in nearly $300,000 of local contracts awarded for on-the-ground restoration and supported nearly $68,000 of watershed work completed by other partner organizations working in the watershed with the LCFWG. The LCFWG worked with around 15 landowners (those involved with Bull River revegetation efforts and other interested in projects under development for 2021) as well as 11 volunteers. In 2022, the LCFWG will continue working with landowners, volunteers, and partner organizations to implement further revegetation efforts in the Bull River, develop other projects on private lands, build pollinator gardens to support native pollinator species, as well as maintain coordination across the watershed with all partners regarding past, ongoing and potential projects.
Major 2021 accomplishments in the watershed and in specific tributaries to the lower Clark Fork River are described below:
- Watershed-wide: partnered with the Green Mountain Conservation District to continue the Private Land Stewardship Program, aimed at landowner outreach and engagement intended to increase on-the-ground projects on private lands. In 2021, the Green Mountain Conservation District, Eastern Sanders County Conservation District and the Lower Clark Fork Watershed Group partnered to build demonstration pollinator gardens across Sanders County and empower landowners to participate in the Sanders County Pollinator Initiative and build habitat for native bees and other pollinators. In response to outreach efforts through the local paper, direct contacts, and direct mailings, the LCFWG Coordinator was able to meet with over fifteen landowners interested in potential new projects or at least in learning more about their watershed. New revegetation projects were implemented in the Bull River on two different landowner’s properties, and at least another three are planned for 2022.
- Beaver Creek: Worked with the Kootenai National Forest to finalize the Emma Creek Road Obliteration Project, which reduced road densities along a native fish stream in Upper Beaver Creek and will reduce risk of road-related sediment inputs to the stream into the future.
- Bull River: Continued ongoing efforts to re-vegetate areas along the Bull River, which over time will help stabilize stream banks, improve water quality, and create diverse habitat for native fish and wildlife. Major accomplishments in 2021 included new plantings of over 500 trees and shrubs on two properties along the East Fork and mainstem Bull River, removing old browse protection materials at three properties, and maintaining engagement with landowners and protecting past planting efforts from browse. Additional plantings at a minimum of three additional sites will be completed in 2022. The LCFWG also worked with the Natural Resource Conservation Service to develop additional funding opportunities for landowners to implement revegetation efforts through federal cost-share programs.
- Graves Creek: Supported monitoring efforts of a 2019 pilot project in Graves Creek, an important stream for migratory Bull Trout, aimed at increasing the deposition of spawning gravel and enhancing fish habitat by the installation of five large wood structures.
- Prospect Creek: Partnered with the Lolo National Forest to implement an approximately 200 ft bank stabilization project on lower Prospect Creek that met multiple goals of stabilizing an eroding streambank to protect the Yellowstone Pipeline while also providing floodplain and riparian habitat. The Lower Clark Fork Watershed Group helped facilitate this project and also led a revegetation effort following construction of the new bank. LCFWG also supported monitoring efforts of a 2020 large wood project in Upper Prospect Creek, which created nine habitat structures in an area that has the potential to provide quality spawning habitat for Bull Trout and Westslope Cutthroat Trout, as well as monitoring and summary reporting efforts of a 2019 project in Crow Creek that restored a 600 foot section of Bull Trout and Westslope Cutthroat habitat.
- Thompson River: Worked with partner Trout Unlimited and others to complete planning activities in the Thompson River watershed, which were all summarized in a memo for distribution among drainage stakeholders. With the support of the Lolo National Forest and other stakeholders, the partners aim to develop projects in the drainage to reduce impacts of roads and other human activities on Bull Trout, Westslope Cutthroat Trout and the robust recreational fishery in the drainage. The LCFWG also supported monitoring of past projects completed in 2020 in Fishtrap Creek as well as a 2018 riparian fencing project along Loneman Creek.
- Vermilion River: The LCFWG supported the implementation of the largest stream restoration project completed in the Lower Clark Fork Watershed to-date. The Sims Meander Stream and Floodplain Restoration Project on the Vermilion River restored floodplain function and created in-stream and riparian habitat along 2,400 ft of the Vermilion River. The “Sims Meander” stretch of the river was recontoured to reconnect the river to the floodplain, and large logs and root wads were installed along the banks of the river and in the floodplain to anchor the banks and help trap sediment during flood events. These measures were designed to help restore native vegetation in the floodplain and slow water during runoff events. That in turn will improve water quality and improve habitat for native fish and wildlife. The LCFWG’s role in this project was to coordinate funding, contracting, implementation, monitoring and outreach efforts related to the project.