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Why are we planting trees along rivers?

Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.

Flathead Valley Community College volunteers helping plant willows and trees to improve riparian buffers.

Warren Buffet said it, and we are doing it. Over the last ten years, River Steward Program partners have worked with ten landowners to plant thousands of native trees and shrubs along the North Shore of Flathead Lake, the Flathead River, and Ashley and Blaine Creeks – which flow into the river.

Restoring buffers will provide long-term benefits in filtering pollutants from runoff, reducing bank erosion, improving habitat for fish, waterfowl, and other wildlife, and improving soil and water conservation.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Restoration Ecologist Franz Ingelfinger is leading our River Steward Program effort to experiment with new planting techniques to identify opportunities to scale up riparian buffer planting and reduce costs and maintenance.

Franz Ingelfinger, MT Fish, Wildlife and Parks, and Tiffany Martin, Big Sky Watershed Corps member, check a planting project at Foys Bend Fisheries Conservation Area.

Franz is testing new techniques that might allow partners to restore riparian buffers on a larger scale while reducing maintenance needs. Experiments include planting cottonwood poles and broadcasting cottonwood seeds onto bare ground. This method mimics conditions that promote natural cottonwood regeneration following flooding of natural gravel beds.

River Steward program key partners include MT Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Flathead Lakers, Flathead Conservation District, and Natural Resources Conservation Service. From 2012-2017, we teamed up with Montana Big Sky Watershed Corps Program (an AmeriCorps Program) to annually host Corps members to help us coordinate projects and build the restoration program. We also team up with Montana Conservation Corps to hire their leadership team for a week of planting riparian buffers. To learn more about the program and how to help or get started with a project check our Riparian Restoration Handout.

Riparian Buffers Video

In 2017, Flathead River Steward Program partners produced a video showcasing riparian restoration work. The short video features landowner Dick Siderius, who planted hundreds of native trees and shrubs on his property along Ashley Creek with help from River Steward Program partners and Flathead Valley Community College volunteers. Watch the video to learn what you can do to protect water quality and improve fish and wildlife habitat.


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