Following the completion of the Thompson River Watershed Restoration Plan in March 2018, partners in the Thompson River have worked to channel energy from watershed planning toward project development and implementation. The first project to make it “on-the-ground” in the Thompson River is the Loneman Creek Riparian Fencing Project.
Loneman Creek is a small tributary in the Thompson River Drainage that supports a Westslope Cutthroat Trout population. Monitoring of stream temperatures indicates that Loneman has elevated temperatures relative to a nearby stream (Partridge Creek) of similar size and characteristics. This is likely because through 2018, cattle have had unmitigated access to the creek and streamside areas. Cattle have been excluded from Partridge Creek for over a decade, which has allowed riparian vegetation there to grow and shade the stream.
The landowner (Weyerhaeuser) identified an opportunity to fence off cattle from Loneman Creek in 2018. Working with the Lower Clark Fork Watershed Group, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, and the Soil and Water Conservation Districts of Montana, funds were acquired to purchase fencing materials. In September and October 2018, 4-strand wire fencing was installed by the grazing lessee. The only remaining task to complete this project is to install gates, which will be completed in the spring prior to cows being turned out in the area.
Over time, Loneman Creek will recover passively. Without the grazing pressure and disturbance from cattle, native trees and shrubs will be able to naturally regenerate and provides structure and cover to the stream.