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A volunteer project is underway to help restore wildlife and wetland habitat along Fishtrap Creek, on the Lolo National Forest in Sanders County. Community members have volunteered to aid in the collection of willow tree cuttings that will be replanted along the stream. Volunteers for the West Fork Fishtrap Creek Road Realignment Project, which is set to run this week, will be under the direction of the Lower Clark Fork Watershed Group.

Due to the social distancing recommendations that have been set in place to help reduce the spread of COVID-19, the volunteer numbers have been limited. “I’m not working with more than six people per day,” said Brita Olson, the Lower Clark Fork Watershed Group Coordinator. Limited entry to the site, along with accessibility to clean tools for each volunteer, will help reduce and limit contact between each individual.

In a press release, Olson stated their goal is to collect at least 2,400 willow stems. These willow stems, once established, will help hold the newly built riverbank intact. According to Olson, the use of the willow stems, is a planting technique that is an integral part that contributes to the success of the project as a whole.

The goal for this realignment project, is to reduce the amount of road that is right next to the stream. “In removing the road that is right next to the stream, we are pulling out all the material that makes up the road bed, but then re-grading the floodplain, so it is at an appropriate elevation, which will allow the bank to take on floodwaters, and grow typical streamside vegetation species like willow, or other native species that you typically see in Montana along streamside areas,” Olson stated. While the group will try to salvage some of the existing vegetation during the excavation process, they will in return, supplement the lost vegetation with the willow cuttings.

The use and implementation of native vegetation species along the riverbank, such as the willow tree, as opposed to rocks and other materials they may have on sight; will allow for proper restoration of in-stream fishery habitats and shelters. The use of natural materials also gives broader access to wildlife who also heavily rely on the stream availability.

 

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