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A man-made structure designed to mimic the function of a natural beaver dam. They’re cost efficient, effective, and great tools that will help retain sediment before it gets washed down stream. This helps with creating a great riparian area.

 

In 2019, Clark Fork Coalition, Defenders of Wildlife, and the National Wildlife Federation started a pilot project to increase tolerance for beavers in western Montana. Their goal is to keep beavers on the landscape where they are beneficial to ecosystems, while working closely with landowners, agencies, and conservation organizations to address beaver concerns in a nonlethal manner. By helping landowners to tolerate beavers – where they are appropriate – and increasing understanding of the important role beavers play in ecosystem health, the watersheds will be more resilient.

The California Creek Restoration project, completed in 2017, addressed sediment pathways from source to stream, enhancing the ability of the landscape to both retain sediment on slopes as well as deposit excess sediment on the floodplain. The entire project area was assessed, and priority areas were selected for both upland and riparian area treatment.

AREA HISTORY

Aerial emissions from early 20th-century smelting activities in Anaconda, together with extensive logging activities to fuel the smelters, have left areas in the Mt. Haggin Uplands (RDU 15) of the Anaconda National Priorities List (NPL) site in a highly degraded state. Some soils in the Mt. Haggin uplands are highly erodible volcanic tuff material, which, due to mining and logging impacts, have eroded off the mountain over time and formed large gullies that transport upland sediments directly into nearby California Creek, and its main northern tributary, the North Fork (NF) of California Creek. That sediment travels downstream into French Creek, Deep Creek, and the Big Hole River in what local residents have observed as a white plume in the Big Hole River that is visible for several miles downstream.

RESULTS

300 beaver mimicry structures installed over 2 miles of intermittent streams

8.5 acres of degraded floodplain enhanced through riparian planting and fluvial connectivity

Over 2000 plantings and 4000 willow stakes installed

12 acres of upland areas enhanced with erosion control BMPs

35 acres of aerial fertilization to enhance upland vegetation

4 miles of upland gullies treated with check dam BMPs

3 large, engineered rock check dams 260 Cu. yds sediment catchment installed

BMP techniques and per-unit costs established for scaling to larger projects.

2 new culverts installed to manage road sediment

1 failed in-stream culvert removed and streambank re-graded, planted

Beaver dam analog structures installed on Hell Roaring Creek, headwaters source of the Missouri River. These man-made beaver dam structures function to store water and spread water across the landscape to create wider riparian habitat. They are quick and easy to install and have an immediate impact. They improve fish and wildlife habitat, and if beavers are present, they may adopt these structures and start maintaining them on their own. This project was completed by Intermountain Aquatics in partnership with Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks; US Fish & Wildlife Service – Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge; Montana Land Reliance; Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust; and The Nature Conservancy. You can learn more about the habitat restoration work at www.intermountainaquatics.com.

The Big Hole Watershed Committee collaborates with a variety of partners to create life-giving wetlands in SW Montana. Taking cues from flood irrigation and beavers, natural water storage projects help adapt to climate change by slowing spring runoff and soaking the soil sponge. The film highlights pro-active work to increase the availability of water for all uses by making the most of abundant winter snowpack.

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