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Wherever you are, you are in a watershed.

By Brita Olson

The Lower Clark Fork Watershed Group wants you to know that, wherever you are, you are in a watershed.

Whether nestled in an unpopulated valley or right in town, we all share in the stewardship of our landscapes and watershed, an area of land connected by water (such as the Clark Fork River valley). 

Throughout human history, we have settled and concentrated our homes and industries along oceans, rivers, and lakes. Access to water and its many beneficial uses has been and continues to be a cornerstone of human society. Settlement along the Clark Fork River and its tributaries is no exception.

Similarly, water bodies provide critical corridors and habitat for native species of all shapes and sizes with whom we share our landscape. For example, large game such as deer, elk and moose frequent rivers for drink, food, or cover. And, in early spring, willow catkins are among the first pollen-bearing flowers to bloom and provide forage for native bees (above).

The LCFWG is a small nonprofit organization that works throughout much of Sanders County to implement on-the-ground projects that benefit our streams and rivers as well as the many fish and wildlife species that depend on them. We work with a number of different organizations in the county interested in conserving natural resources, such as the Green Mountain Conservation District, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and many others. Some of these organizations offer programs for private landowners. Luckily for landowners, the LCFWG can keep track of all the different organizations, programs and their respective acronyms so that landowners don’t have to. Together, we coordinate efforts and provide resources, such as technical advice and funding, for landowners to implement conservation projects. All of our work is collaborative and totally voluntary.

Sometimes, watershed restoration can be quite technical and involve multiple stakeholders carefully weighing the cost relative to resource benefit of implementing various projects. However, we can also provide great benefits to our streams by simply maintaining a buffer of native vegetation (ranging in size from small plants to large cedar trees) along streambanks and floodplain areas. Individual landowners can accomplish this by simply reducing disturbance (such as mowing or grazing) in streamside areas, and can encourage vegetation through planting and/or fencing efforts.

While much of the LCFWG’s work does focus on streamside areas, there are ways you can steward the landscape and the many species with which we share it even if you don’t live immediately on a stream.

Other projects the LCFWG has been working on lately include:

While these few specific ideas and initiatives might be helpful, not every problem has the same solution. Do you have other natural resource concerns or conservation goals for your property? Contact LCFWG Coordinator Brita Olson at 406.203.4725 or Brita would be happy to meet with you and provide technical input. If she can’t help, chances are she knows someone else working in Sanders County who might be able to.

This cooperative project has been funded in part by Avista, Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, Montana Watershed Coordination Council Watershed Fund, Soil & Water Conservation Districts of Montana, and United States Environmental Protection Agency.