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Friday, April 14th

Wetlands of the Clark Fork Basin—Values, Threats, Conservation

Ryan Alter, UM Watershed Health Clinic and Missoula Conservation District
Kevin Colborn, UM Watershed Health Clinic and Missoula Conservation District
Vicki J. Watson, University of Montana - Missoula

The wetlands of the Clark Fork Basin provide flood damage reduction, water purification, wildlife habitat and many other values. But these valuable systems have been damaged by historic land uses and are increasingly threatened by sprawling development. This web page is intended to help basin citizens better understand the wetlands of the Clark Fork—their values, threats, types, condition, and what can be done to restore and protect them. Citizens are invited to add their own favorite wetlands to the page – see it on the internet.

Evaluating Stream Bioassessment Protocols using Data from the Clark Fork’s Ecoregion

Wease Bollman, Rhithron Associates, Inc.

A proposed method for the evaluation of macroinvertebrate bioassessment protocols is described in this study. The Montana Department of Environmental Quality (Montana DEQ) uses a modification of US EPA’s Rapid Bioassessment Protocols for stream assessment and monitoring. These protocols use a battery of macroinvertebrate community descriptors, or metrics, as indicators of biotic health; the metrics are based upon tenets of ecological theory and field observations and remained largely untested for sensitivity to the effects of human activities.

To evaluate the metric battery in current use, 93 stream sites were sampled in the Montana Valley and Foothill Prairies ecoregion (which includes the river valleys and foothills of the Clark Fork Basin) . These sites were classified as highly impacted by human activities, moderately impacted and less impacted, based upon visual assessment of habitat and watershed information. Twenty-two metrics, including those comprising the state’s protocol, were tested. Eight metrics were able to distinguish less impaired sites from highly impaired sites. Seven of these impact-sensitive metrics were highly correlated with habitat assessment parameters. Anthropogenic impacts explained over one-third of the variability in six metrics. Based on these results, a battery of seven metrics was assembled. This metric battery proved to be more sensitive to impact, better related to habitat variables, and more consistent in assigning impairment categories than the battery used by Montana DEQ.

A Work in Progress: Silver Bow Creek Remedial Action

Joel Chavez, Montana Department of Environmental Quality
Cameron Beul, Maxim Technologies, Inc.
Mike Rotar, Inter-Fluve, Inc.

After 14 years of investigations and studies, the remediation of Silver Bow Creek started in September 1999. With an $80,000,000 settlement from the Atlantic Richfield Company (ARCO), the State of Montana awarded a construction contract for $2.54 million to remediate the first 1.25 miles of the 26 mile long Streamside Tailings Operable Unit downstream of Butte, Montana. By January 2000, the contractor had completed approximately half of the contract. Most of the design elements have been implemented successfully, however some problems have been encountered. As expected in a floodplain, working around water presents the greatest problems. The following aspects of the project have been completed or are under construction: stream diversion and dewatering; tailings/impacted soils removal; a mine waste relocation repository; in-stream sediment removal; non-deformable streambank construction; floodplain reconstruction with associated groundwater dewatering systems; and haul roads.

Clark Fork Basin Fisheries—Condition, Restoration and Conservation

Kevin Colborn, UM Watershed Health Clinic and Missoula Conservation District
Chris Clancy, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks

The Clark Fork Basin supports many valuable native and introduced fisheries. But these fisheries have been damaged by historic land uses, stream modification and exotic species introductions. In addition, the fisheries are increasingly threatened by incompatible development, especially in floodplains. The Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks is collaborating with private landowners and other concerned citizens to correct past land use errors and to protect and restore habitat through conservation easements and water leasing. FWP biologists also provide public education on the threats of species introductions, review development and stream project proposals, and manage the fishery through fishing regulations. This poster summarizes some of DFWP’s fishery restoration & conservation projects—past, present and future.

Changing Images of the Clark Fork Watershed: 1803-2000

Alex Philp, University of Montana, Missoula

Over the course of the past two hundred years, cartographical impressions of the Clark Fork watershed have changed dramatically. Each image reflects the current state of understanding regarding the nature of the watershed, its connection to larger watershed units, and its significance as a corridor for the movement of good and services, ecological flows, and general human migration. This poster captures these various snapshots in time, allows for a comparison of these landscape impressions and depicts the role a Cartesian coordinate systems plays in transforming a three-dimensional percept into a two dimensional concept. Of notable significance, the last two hundred years have produced a number of geographical names for the Clark Fork Watershed. This dynamic nomenclature reflects the power of geographical place names to change our understanding of an ecocultural system. In particular, the pre-Euroamerican, indigenous place names, which largely described landscape processes over political or social references, have been lost through a succession of Euroamerican naming conventions. As such, the psycho-spiritual connections to place have been concealed from the geographical ethnology of local and regional pre-Euroamerican inhabitants. Today, the “Clark Fork” name reflects the impact of the Lewis and Clark expedition and its role in re-imagining the landscape through political, economical, and social filters. It is this historical cartographic legacy that defines in part our conceptualizations and impressions of the hydrological unit that we know as the Clark Fork watershed. Our challenge is to excavate the lost or hidden meanings of pre-colonial names and use these meanings to redefine our perceptions of the watershed as a holistic unit consisting of diverse ecosystems and cultures interacting in a discrete, perceivable place. Such efforts can be described as an archaeological phenomenology of the Clark Fork watershed as place.

Plum Creek Timber Company’s Draft Native Fish Habitat Conservation Plan

Brian Sugden, Plum Creek Timber
M. D. Jostrom, Plum Creek Timber

Plum Creek Timber Company owns approximately 8% of the Clark Fork River Basin. Management of this forestland is governed by Plum Creek’s Environmental Principles and the standards of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI)SM Program. Protecting water quality and fish habitat is a cornerstone of all Plum Creek operations. In a cooperative partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service, Plum Creek is preparing a Native Fish Habitat Conservation Plan (NFHCP). This plan would conserve habitat for 18 fish species (including bull trout and westslope cutthroat) on 1.6 million acres of Plum Creek land in Montana, Idaho, and Washington. This includes 1.1 million acres tributary to the Clark Fork River. This is the first Habitat Conservation Plan to be developed in Montana and Idaho. If approved, the NFHCP would be the basis for a 30-year incidental take permit to be issued to Plum Creek under the Endangered Species Act. Development of the NFHCP has taken two years and involved over a dozen scientists to prepare 13 peer-reviewed technical reports. The NFHCP includes 53 individual commitments by Plum Creek in seven broad conservation categories, including: road and upland management, riparian management, legacy and restoration, land use planning, grazing management, administration and implementation, and adaptive management. A Draft NFHCP and Environmental Impact Statement were made available for public review earlier this year, and over 1200 individual comments were received. Comments are presently being analyzed and the NFHCP will be finalized later this year. For more information on the Plan, see the Plum Creek Website

Water Quality Assessment for Northern Rockies Intermontane Basins

Lan H. Tornes, U.S. Geological Survey

The Northern Rockies Intermontane Basins is one of 59 studies of the U.S. Geological Survey's National Water Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Program. The goals of the program are to (1) describe water-quality conditions for a large part of the nation's streams and aquifers, (2) describe water quality trends, and (3) identify factors affecting water quality. Stream water, bottom sediment, ground water, and fish tissue will be sampled; and stream ecology and habitat will be evaluated. Water quality will be related to ancillary factors.

The study area extends along the Continental Divide from Butte, Montana, to the Canadian border, and westward to include the Spokane and Pend Oreille Rivers. Water quality issues in the study area include trace metals, nutrients, degradation of water from increased development, sedimentation, and their effects on aquatic biota. Data collection will be designed to address these issues and provide information for water managers. The assessment includes two years of planning, analysis of existing data, and sampling design; and three years for intensive data collection and interpretation. This will be followed by completion of reports and design and implementation of six years of low-intensity sampling. This cycle will be repeated to assess trends.

Tornes, Lan H., 1997, National Water-Quality Assessment Program--Northern Rockies Intermontane Basins: U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet FS 97-158, 4 p. Available Online