Bull River Re-vegetation
January 1, 2017
The Green Mountain Conservation District (GMCD), along with the Lower Clark Fork Watershed Group (LCFWG) and other partners, is implementing a large-scale re-vegetation efforts along the banks of the Bull River, which are currently largely dominated by the non-native and highly competitive reed canarygrass. In order for plantings to be effective, the reed canarygrass must first be killed. This is accomplished by laying down a heavy fabric barrier over mats of reed canarygrass. This fabric, left in place for 1-2 years, will kill the grass and leave a space for other plants to establish.
After the the weed barrier has been installed, the areas are also fenced in order to protect the young plants to be planted from wildlife browse until they are established enough to withstand this pressure.
A variety of native vegetation is then planted within these enclosures, including: western red cedar, willow, alder, water birch, choke cherry, service berry, golden currant, red osier dogwood, elderberry, black hawthorn, woods rose, black cottonwood, white pine, Engelmann spruce, and western larch. They are then maintained and protected for the next 5-10 years, until they are strong enough to withstand competition from reed canarygrass and wildlife browse pressure.
In our most current effort, the GMCD and LCFWG are working with local landowners to implement this re-vegetation technique throughout the mainstem Bull River. With funding from Montana Department of Environmental Quality, Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks, Montana Department of Natural Resources, and Avista Corporation, work commenced in 2014. In June 2015, over 14,000 square yards of fabric were laid on 7 different sites initiating the re-vegetation process. In fall of 2016, planting began with the harvest and planting of 7500 willow starts. Planting continued in 2017 with thousands of containerized plants on each property. The implementation of this project will be finalized in 2018. The film below documents this effort:
Today, the Bull River is lacking in native shrubs and trees along its river banks. Loss of riparian forest, modified hydrology and highly competitive reed canarygrass limit the natural regeneration of other species. A healthy river is lined with diverse vegetation which has varied root systems that hold streambanks intact (in addition to providing important shade, cover, forage, and habitat for many fish and wildlife species).