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Landscaping and Vegetation Management

Landscaping is one of the most important features of your property.  It is the easiest way to improve and protect your property from erosion.

Natural vegetation has the biggest impact to prevent wearing away on the riverbank.  Banks that are bare of vegetation can quickly erode and damage your land.

  • Willows and Cottonwoods are examples of types of trees that form deep roots.
      • The deep roots can protect the soil from being washed away.
      • The trees also absorb the trauma of heavy rainfall.

Learn more about native riparian plants and animals in Montana.

This property owner left the natural vegetation in place.  Removal of these willows, to improve the view, will likely cause an increase in erosion.  This could lead to an expensive bank-stabilization project.

This property owner removed native shrubs and replaced them with a lawn.  Lawns have shallow roots and are not effective at stopping erosion.  Allowing a barrier of deep-rooted trees and shrubs will save your eroding lawn.  It also maintains the natural functions needed for healthy fisheries.

The largest cause of this failing bank was overwatering of the turf grass.  This allowed water to pool on the surface.

Stream Crossings

The Most Common Crossings are Bridges, Culverts, and Fords

All Crossings need to consider:

  • Peak Flows – Will the crossing allow enough water through during high flows?
    • Will debris or ice be able to flow through?
  • Fish / Aquatic Life Forms Passage – Will the crossing allow fish and/or aquatic life forms to move freely?
  • Weight Allowance – Will the crossing be able to handle the weight of trucks that may not be frequent (i.e.  a fire truck)?
  • Span – Bridges are generally for wider crossings.  Culverts are for narrower/smaller crossings.
    • If a span is greater than 20′, a bridge may be required.
  • Proper Siting – A stable, relatively-straight crossing is critical.
  • Flood Plain – If the crossing is in a flood plain, you will want to contact your local city/county floodplain manager for their regulations and permits.
Well-Designed Bridges are the preferred crossing and, typically, have the least impact on the stream.

Culverts need maintenance so they don’t get clogged.

Fords are best located in shallow areas with gravelly bottoms and little traffic. Even small Montana streams may become uncrossable during the spring/early-summer snowmelt.

Property Improvements

Making improvements to your property may affect bank stability, water quality, and river health.   Any work done to a stable bank is likely to make it weak.  This may cause erosion and property damage.  Remember, all construction or alterations done in, or along, a stream will need to have a 310 permit before work can be started.

Boat Ramps and Docks

Being able to put a boat in the river at a moment’s notice is one of the great attractions of owning riverfront property in Montana. But boat ramps, as with all riverside developments, can cause damage to the river.  Some conservation districts have begun restricting and/or discouraging construction of additional boat ramps.

Some rivers in Montana have seen rapid growth in the number of private boat ramps.  On the Missouri River, between Great Falls and Ulm, a 2012 Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks survey counted 75 private boat ramps.  This was compared to 7 public ramps in the same area.  The study concluded that building additional boat ramps is not necessary and that they may impact the recreational fisheries that are such an important part of our economy.


  • Is it necessary for you to build a new boat ramp?
  • Are there public boat ramps nearby?
  • Can you share with your neighbors?
  • Every house having its own boat ramp will lead to diminished fisheries, reduced water quality, and impaired river function.
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