Restoring O’Brien Creek, Missoula, MT

David Glaser, and Vicki Watson.
Environmental Studies, University of Montana, Missoula, MT  59812

O’Brien Creek, near Missoula, Montana, has been altered by tree harvest, road building, grazing and dewatering.  These actions led to loss of  streamside vegetation, increased streambank erosion and scouring, and  decreased native fish and wildlife recruitment. The Forest Service recently closed and recontoured roads in the upper watershed while the Montana Department  of Fish, Wildlife and Parks regraded and revegetated the lower creek to return it to a more natural state. I monitored the efficacy of  revegetation of the newly restructured streambanks within the first year and a half of planting.  The survival rate of plantings after the first year was only 25%, due, most probably, to the small size of the plants, competition with exotic weeds, and the placement of the plants well above the mid-summer water table. I recommend larger plants, placed with their roots in the mid-summer water table, and an effort to control weeds near the plantings.

The restoration of O’Brien creek was done in patchwork fashion, with 2 agencies working on separate projects in different areas of the watershed without much coordination.  Greater coordination and cooperation between agencies will likely result in more efficient and successful restoration efforts. However, the agencies are to be commended for their efforts which are already producing increases in fish populations in the creek.

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