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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. River Steward Program partners work with landowners to plant 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 are a small portion of our landscape in Montana, but have a huge role in sustaining the health and beauty of our watershed. Riparian buffers help…

  • sustain clean water by filtering pollutants from runoff and helping reduce bank erosion,
  • improve habitat for fish, waterfowl, and other wildlife (over 60% of native species depend on them at some point in their lives),
  • raise groundwater levels next to creeks and rivers,
  • increase shade, which helps maintain cool water temperatures in the summer,
  • protect and enhance your privacy,
  • preserve Montana’s scenic beauty.

Learn more… Riparian Restoration Handout.

What are River Steward Program partners doing?

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) set up several experimental planting plots 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.

FWP is testing techniques that might allow partners to restore riparian buffers on a larger scale while reducing maintenance needs. Experiments include broadcasting cottonwood seeds onto bare ground, while doing various treatments (or none) to reduce grass competition and deer/vole browsing. 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.

Learn More

about riparian restoration assistance, contact the Flathead Conservation District at (406) 752-4220.

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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