Volunteers needed to help partners restore habitat in Fishtrap Creek

Above: Thompson River stakeholders from Montana Fish, Wildife & Parks, Weyerhaeuser, Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, and Lolo National Forest discuss proposed West Fork Fishtrap Creek Road Realignment Project while standing on the 600 ft section of West Fork Fishtrap Creek Road that would be removed, April 2018.

PLAINS, Mont. – Multiple projects are planned for implementation in the Fishtrap Creek drainage this summer that will hire local contractors to improve fisheries and bear habitat on the Lolo National Forest in Sanders County.

Volunteers are also needed to assist in willow collection for the West Fork Fishtrap Creek Road Realignment Project July 21, 22, and 23. The volunteer group size will be limited to comply with recommendations to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and clean tools will be provided for each volunteer to reduce contact/sharing of equipment. Please contact Brita Olson, Lower Clark Fork Watershed Group Coordinator, at 208-304-3852 or brita@lcfwg.org to RSVP if you are interested in volunteering.

“Our goal is to collect at least 2,400 willow stems,” say Olson. “When embedded into the streambank and floodplain along Fishtrap Creek ‘with their feet wet,’ the willows will sprout readily.”

These volunteer efforts will contribute to the West Fork Fishtrap Creek Road Realignment Project which will relocate the junction of West Fork Fishtrap Creek Road (NFSR 7609) with Fishtrap Creek Road (NFSR 516) approximately 600 feet to the north. This will reduce sediment entering the stream and allow for the creation of enhanced stream and wetland habitat along mainstem Fishtrap Creek, benefitting coldwater trout species, including Westslope cutthroat trout and bull trout.

“We are excited to implement this important restoration work with a group of dedicated partners and volunteers. The project will accomplish meaningful improvements to the ecosystem for the long-term,” says Erin Carey, Plains-Thompson Falls District Ranger.

Upstream, the project will also create more complex in-stream fisheries habitat in mainstem Fishtrap Creek through the addition of large wood. Large wood provides cover, structure, and promotes pool formation and gravel sorting important for spawning fish. The construction of roads and historic logging along streams have reduced the natural additions of wood in Fishtrap Creek, and this project will place wood back into the stream to help improve approximately 4,000 feet of habitat.

Partners from Lolo National Forest, Montana, Fish, Wildlife & Parks, and Trout Unlimited assess opportunities to enhance mainstem Fishtrap Creek along the Fishtrap Creek Road in October 2019.

Nearby, in the Beartrap drainage, Beartrap Road (NFSR 7570) and a few adjacent spur roads (NFSR 17372 and 17360) will be put into storage for improved bear habitat and hydrologic stability.

These projects are being implemented through partnership between the Lolo National Forest, Lower Clark Fork Watershed Group, Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative, Trout Unlimited, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, as well as local contractors and volunteers. These projects are supported by the National Forest Foundation, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, NorthWestern Energy, and the Sanders County Resource Advisory Council.

During weekdays July 20-31, travelers on Fishtrap Creek Road may experience delays of up to 30 minutes and travelers to West Fork Fishtrap Creek Road should access the area via an alternative route through Beatrice Creek. West Fork Fishtrap Creek Road and the West Fork Fishtrap Creek Campground will be accessible from Fishtrap Creek Road (NFSR 516) in the mornings and evenings before and after work each day and on the weekends (Saturday and Sunday).

For any questions about current travel delays or restrictions on the Forest, please contact the Plains/Thompson Falls Ranger District at 406-826-3821. For continued updates visit the Lolo Naional Forest Alerts & Notices page: https://www.fs.usda.gov/alerts/lolo/alerts-notices or the Lolo National Forest Facebook.