When the Clark Fork Coalition installed a fish screen to keep thousands of native fish from becoming trapped and dying in an irrigation ditch off Lolo Creek, the construction damaged vegetation along the banks of the creek and the ditch. Recognizing the opportunity to restore the site and prevent erosion, the Lolo Watershed Group (LWG), one of the Coalition’s local partners, stepped up with a proposal to return native vegetation to the site. LWG’s 2021 Big Sky Watershed Corps (BSWC) member, Maeve Holman, applied for and was awarded Big Sky Watershed Corps Project Support funding from the MWCC Watershed Fund to lead a group of volunteers planting native species along the streambank and floodplain areas. The purpose of this BSWC-led project is to create strong, healthy streambanks and adequate streamside buffers to filter pollution. This will ultimately promote soil conditions that are productive, allow appropriate infiltration, and decrease compaction and erosion. (The Clark Fork Coalition’s fish screen project also was supported by the Watershed Fund, via Project Support Funding)
- 22 stakeholders engaged, including landowners, volunteers, local nonprofits, federal and state government agencies, and K-12 students
- 3 conservation practices implemented:
- Riparian vegetation planting
- Weed control
- Soil health improvements
- 1.16 acres of floodplain and wetlands made more resilient
- 0.1 miles (528 feet) of stream improved
- 217 native trees and shrubs planted
How will this project improve water quality and other natural resources in the Lolo Watershed?
The project will reduce nonpoint source pollution and improve water quality and habitat for the native bull trout species by planting native plants on the disturbed grounds before any invasive plant species and noxious weeds can grow. Benefits will include reduced sediment in the creek, cooler water temperatures, increased fish and wildlife habitat, and increased groundwater storage.
Impacts of the Watershed Fund: How has this project helped build capacity for the Lolo Watershed Group?
With the help of the Watershed Fund, the LWG was able to grow positive relationships with landowners across the watershed and spread the LWG name and mission to a greater audience. BSWC Project Support funding also gave Maeve the opportunity to gain professional skills, including writing her first grant and completing a restoration project from start to finish. She said, “the BSWC 319 Project Support grant is the first grant that I have applied for… this has been a great learning experience for me, to witness the project’s progression and manage each aspect of the project.”
Impacts of Big Sky Watershed Corps:
Maeve and previous BSWC members who’ve served with LWG have taken on projects that the organization wouldn’t have been able to accomplish otherwise, building relationships with landowners that have increased trust in the organization and its programs. “[Maeve] represented the face of BSWC and Lolo Watershed Group in a professional manner. Her interactions with the landowners were always upbeat and informative,” said Heather Brighton, LWG’s coordinator. “The ambitious and uplifting culture of BSWC members is contagious and rubs off on everyone at a volunteer event. Not only that, but they make project work go much faster!”