Due to the pandemic of 2020, there was not a Clark Fork Symposium in 2020. However, an excellent symposium on the restoration of the Upper Clark Fork River was organized in 2021 for the American Fisheries Society - MT chapter annual meeting. The organizers and presenters graciously agreed for that symposium to be archived as part of the Clark Fork Symposia.

‘Crossing Disciplines in Large River Restoration’ featured presentations on the natural science and social science of large river restoration. Speakers included restoration ecologists, fisheries biologists, social scientists, and student researchers. Symposium organizers and moderators included Nathan Cook, Montana Fish, Wildlife, & Parks; Lisa Eby, University of Montana, Wildlife Biology; and Tanner Traxler, RESPEC Consulting.

The links below connect to the recorded online presentations.


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Tuesday, March 2nd
10:00 AM

Silver Bow Creek: 100 years as a copper mine -- Can it be restored?

Joe Griffin

10:00 AM - 10:15 AM

Silver Bow Creek, devastated by a hundred years of mining and ore processing, was devoid of all but the most metal and acid tolerant life forms. But the first Earth Day in 1970 marked the inception of an environmental awareness that even infected the Anaconda Copper Mining Company. From the Companies early work to reduce metals discharging from the mine in the 1970s, through the Superfund cleanup era that extends to the present and beyond, the concentration of copper in the Creek has been reduced by over four orders of magnitude. Is that enough progress to meet Superfund’s legal and enforceable measure of “clean enough” —Montana’s water quality standards? I will present the history of the cleanup and explore the practicable limits of meeting water quality standards. Finding practicable limits to restoring Silver Bow Creek’s ecosystem is a complex endeavor that goes beyond Superfund and begs the question, “why is restoration taking so long?”

10:15 AM

The highs and lows of upper Clark Fork River trout populations

Nathan Cook, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks

10:15 AM - 10:30 AM

The Upper Clark Fork River (UCFR) is home to a trout population that is highly variable in both time and space. Once completely devoid of fish, past improvements in water quality facilitated the establishment of a brown trout fishery. However, this fishery still exhibits a boom and bust pattern and continues to be impacted by legacy mining contamination and other water quality issues. Over the years Montana, Fish, Wildlife, and Parks has partnered with other agencies, NGOs, and Montana Universities to study factors limiting trout and other aquatic life in the UCFR. With trout abundance currently lower than is has been in almost 50 years, what do we know about the causes for the decline and what restoration actions can be taken to reverse the trend?

10:30 AM

Disentangling the impacts of multiple stressors in the Upper Clark Fork food webs

Rafael Feijo de Lima, University of Montana, Missoula
B. Colman, University of Montana, Missoula
W. Cross, Montana State University-Bozeman
T. Gold-Quiros, University of Montana, Missoula
J. Ruiz-Sanchez, Montana State University-Bozeman
J. Shaw, Montana State University-Bozeman
H. Maurice Valett, University of Montana, Missoula
D. White, University of Montana, Missoula
C. Witzowskey, University of Montana, Missoula

10:30 AM - 10:45 AM

The UCFR headwaters suffer from mining legacy impacts and also nutrient enrichment caused by land use and other natural features of the watershed. These impacts historically led to a major decline in riverine integrity. The Montana EPSCOR-CREWS project has as one of its main objectives to determine how heavy metals contamination, coupled with nutrient enrichment alter aquatic ecosystems, acting as subsidies and stressors in the UCFR. The form and size of the metals in question can determine the propensity for uptake by primary producers and transfer to higher trophic levels. Through its influences on primary production, nutrient enrichment can exacerbate contaminant effects via increased resource availability during algal blooms or diminish such effects by distributing contaminants more broadly within autotrophic biomass. The timing and location of algal blooms might affect the quality and availability of basal resources that modulate the transfer of pollutants to higher trophic levels. Lastly, the health of the fish communities in the river might not only be affected by trophic interactions and metal concentrations, but also by habitat availability and other important features of the system also currently impaired by human activities. Here we showcase the ongoing multidisciplinary efforts to disentangle the effects of these multiple stressors and provide information to restoration efforts and stakeholders in the UCFR.

10:45 AM

Ospreys as environmental sentinels

Erick Greene, University of Montana, Missoula

10:45 AM - 11:00 AM

Ospreys sit at the top of aquatic food chains, and so they are an ideal species to help us monitor the health of aquatic systems. For over 12 years, Erick Greene and his colleagues have been sampling the blood and feathers of Osprey chicks throughout the Clark Fork River basin and other watersheds. He will discuss the results of an ecotoxicology study to track changes in contaminants before, during and after the restoration of the Upper Clark Fork Watershed.

11:10 AM

Long Shot: the potential to restore fluvial native trout in a fragmented, contaminated basin

William McDowell, Clark Fork Coalition

11:10 AM - 11:25 AM

The Upper Clark Fork (UCF) river basin is the subject of both a massive Superfund clean-up of metals contamination in the mainstem, and an ambitious Aquatic Restoration Plan in its tributaries. Montana agencies (FWP and NRDP) have long-term goals to restore a fishery which has a salmonid density similar to reference streams, high species diversity, characteristics of healthy reproduction/recruitment, and includes species which are less tolerant to metals contamination. Brown trout make up 99% of the trout fishery in the uppermost reach of UCF (Reach A). But FWP has set the goal to re-establish native trout as 10 percent of the sport fishery in Reach A, as well. This will require dramatic improvements in both recruitment and survival of native trout, particularly fluvial westslope cutthroat trout, or re-establishment of fluvial populations where only headwater resident fish remain. Although westslope cutthroat trout are still widespread in tributary headwaters, the opportunities for restoring fluvial cutthroat life histories in this environment are scarce, complex and expensive. Brief case histories of early restoration efforts in three native fish tributaries (ONeill, Cottonwood, Dry Cottonwood), and their potential to enhance the westslope cutthroat population in Reach A, are examined.

11:25 AM

Collaboration on the Upper Clark Fork River: a case study from the Montana CREWS project

Michelle Terwilliger, University of Montana, Missoula
Theresa M. Floyd, University of Montana, Missoula
Libby C. Metcalf, University of Montana, Missoula
Jakki J. Mohr, University of Montana - Missoula

11:25 AM - 11:40 AM

Ecosystem restoration projects are collaborative undertakings and often involve scientists and professionals from varied backgrounds working together across agencies, academia, and the private sector. Successful outcomes are a result of effective collaborative processes, and monitoring how collaboration evolves over the course of a project can provide important insights for management. We present a measurement tool for assessing team collaboration processes and discuss validation and results from a survey of the CREWS project, a large-scale research project in Montana focusing on environmental water quality. We adapted a survey instrument used in the health sciences for relevance to our large interdisciplinary science team and validated our scale for this context. This work is part of a larger project using social network analysis to explore social factors involved in collaborative science and their relationships to project outcomes.

Because this study is still in progress, the recording is not included here. For more information on this ongoing study, contact Elizabeth.metcalf@umontana.edu

11:40 AM

Responding to public doubts: what about the habitat?

Alex Leone, Clark Fork Coalition

11:40 AM - 11:55 AM

As a watershed advocacy organization, landowner and water rights holder, the Clark Fork Coalition (CFC) has been deeply engaged in Superfund cleanup activities on the upper Clark Fork River for over a decade. As an advocacy organization, the CFC also often serves as a conduit for public grievances. With trout populations at all-time lows in the recently remediated reaches, many long-time recreationists are beginning to point fingers at the cleanup itself. As one Anaconda local put it, “the agencies are creating a fish desert in the upper Clark Fork”. In response to the public’s concerns, the CFC partnered with MT FWP in 2019/2020 to investigate and quantify available fish habitats in both restored and unrestored reaches of the upper Clark Fork River. Floodplain remediation activities result in severe disturbances to riparian ecosystems and recovery of streamside vegetation and other types of fish habitats (such as undercut banks) may take years or decades. In an attempt to catalog and quantify those changes over time, the CFC is hoping data gleaned from the habitat assessment will be used to inform management decisions in the future. This talk will cover the lifecycle of an advocacy-driven research project, from its critique-driven inception, to results and potential implications for management.

11:55 AM

Restoring the Upper Clark Fork: integrating public perceptions of the Warm Springs ponds & conducting collaborative research for successful river restoration

Arica Crootof, University of Montana - Western

11:55 AM - 12:10 PM

To support river restoration of the Upper Clark Fork, a final clean-up plan is needed for the Warm Springs Ponds. The Warm Springs Ponds are a series of water treatment settling basins along Silver Bow Creek that trap copper, arsenic, cadmium, lead, and zinc, and limit these heavy metals from entering the Upper Clark Fork River. As a result, these ponds contain an estimated 19 million cubic yards of contaminated sediment. Despite the contamination, the Warm Springs ponds are locally known for supporting trophy-sized trout and providing critical habitat for migratory birds. Given the recreational use and local attachment to the Warm Springs Ponds, there is a need to understand and integrate public use of and perceptions of the ponds into future reclamation plans. Undergraduate students at the University of Montana Western are engaged in a collaborative research project to integrate public perceptions into future restoration plans. A public survey was co-developed in collaboration with Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Clark Fork Coalition, and Atlantic Richfield Company. Students are also conducting interviews with key stakeholders and participant observations at the ponds to capture the range of uses and diverse perspectives of the ponds. Integrating public interest into the final clean-up plan can enhance public acceptance and thus long-term success of restoration efforts for the Upper Clark Fork.