Category Archives: Projects

February 2017 Newsletter Now Available

february-2017-newsletter

To view past Newsletters, visit “About Us” – Newsletters.

May 2016 Newsletter Now Available

May 2016 Newsletter

Partnerships Producing Possibilities

The MRCDC River Rendezvous highlights the success of partnership efforts to control saltcedar on the South shore of Fort Peck Lake

Over 30 folks loaded into boats gathered at the Devil’s Creek Recreation Area at Fort Peck Lake on August 25th to tour a unique, cooperative effort to combat the invasive tree, saltcedar (Tamarisk ramosissima). Saltcedar is native to Eurasia, produces thousands of seeds that float on water and germinate in the wet soils left behind as the lake level steadily drops through the summer. The tree uses large amounts of water and exudes salts into the soil altering its ability to support more desirable plants. Saltcedar has drastically altered riparian systems in the Southwestern US, prompting concerted efforts to control the plant in Montana.

After a 30 minute ride on a rare glass-like surface of Fort Peck, the boats landed at the mouth of Seven Blackfoot Creek, providing tour attendees with a first-hand look at the extent of saltcedar infestation and the challenges imposed by the rugged terrain. A delta of trees ranging from seedlings to six-foot tall individuals sprinkled with emerging cottonwoods testify of the complexity of treating the full area. To add to the challenge, the 56,000 acre drainage encompasses both public and private ownerships, steep terrain, and very limited road access. So why pick such a challenging area for a saltcedar treatment?

The project was proposed at a meeting of the Montana Saltcedar Team (MST) which is a group of over 50 public and private partners whose mission is to promote strategic, cooperative management of saltcedar along the Missouri and Musselshell Rivers in Montana. During the first meeting, the group identified the Seven Blackfoot Creek area in Garfield County as a key area for managing saltcedar on the south shore of Fort Peck Lake. The group has since spent nearly a year organizing partners, obtaining funding, and developing a treatment plan that includes the full array of landowners with the goal of controlling saltcedar in the entire watershed. “This project is important to the private landowners in Garfield County, and we hope it provides an example for how to manage saltcedar and noxious weeds in other areas”, said Dean Rogge, Chairman of the Garfield County Conservation District and the MRCDC.

The treatment plan is a cooperative effort between the US Army Corps Of Engineers (ACOE), US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), Garfield County Conservation District, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Bureau of Land Management (BLM), private landowners, and the Missouri River Conservation Districts Council (MRCDC). Patricia Gilbert of the US ACOE believes that having everyone at the table helps keep the support for the projects coming from the federal agencies. “It’s important that we all understand how management of weeds on our land affects our neighbors and their land”, she continued.

Currently, treatments have been applied to the private land near the head of the drainage, and will continue with applications on BLM, US FWS, and US ACOE land scheduled for summer of 2016. Herbicide treatments will be applied with helicopter, UTV spray rigs, and backpack sprayers as dictated by the terrain and infestation density. This collaborative approach to managing saltcedar on a landscape scale will result in more impact to the plant community and more efficient use of everyone’s limited resources.

The MST was formed in April of 2014 to bring federal and state agencies together with local government and private individuals to combat a common problem. The Team promotes on –the-ground projects and working together across land ownership boundaries to control saltcedar. To support that mission, the MST also hosted an Americorps Member stationed in Petroleum County to help coordinate saltcedar management efforts, provide education and outreach benefits to the Missouri and Musselshell River watersheds, and create a database of current infestations of saltcedar to help MST members prioritize future areas of treatment.

The MST also serves as a source of communication about other saltcedar treatment efforts going on within the watersheds. Sara Meloy, volunteer coordinator with the Friends of the Missouri Breaks Monument described their use of Montana Conservation Corps (MCC) volunteer teams to survey and hand-pull saltcedar from the Missouri River between Fort Benton and the Fred Robinson Bridge. This program removed saltcedar from over 100 miles of river the past year and there are plans for more removals and surveys in 2016.

On the ride back to Devil’s Creek, the boats stopped to survey a small site of Eurasian Watermilfoil, where Patricia discussed the impacts of lake level on the growth of the plant. Lake level forecasts are used to determine the need for treatments for both milfoil and saltcedar on an annual basis, and help guide the long-range plan of the Corps in controlling these aquatic invasive species.

Thanks to Jim Gordon with Crop Production Services for supplying the lunch for the tour participants and to Patricia Gilbert and cohorts from the US ACOE and Bridget Neilsen and fellow USFWS boat operators for a near-perfect day on the water, despite the smoke from area fires. To learn more about the MST and their projects, contact Rachel Frost, Coordinator for MRCDC, at mrcdc@macdnet.org.

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MRCDC Travels to Denver to Visit with US Fish and Wildlife Service Officials

MRCDC Denver Trip 2014

It’s hard to fit a cowboy hat into an airplane seat. Just ask Missouri River Conservation Districts Council (MRCDC) members Dean Rogge and Steve Wanderaas, who traveled to Denver with MRCDC Coordinator Rachel Frost, to meet with US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) personnel at the Regional Offices. The reason for the meeting was 1,100,000 acres in the heart of Montana, better known as the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge (CMR NWR). The retirement of former Refuge Manager, Rick Potts, has left the Refuge and the surrounding communities wondering who the new project leader will be and what direction they will choose for the Refuge. As founders of the Charles M. Russell NWR Community Working Group (CMR CWG), the MRCDC has a vested interest in the new Project Leader and high hopes for their desire to work with the surrounding landowners and community.

The visit was intended to convey the interest landowners have in leveraging conservation in partnership with the Refuge. Despite the large size of the CMR, it is not capable of supporting the desired populations of wildlife that make Montana special. However, when private landowners and public land managers communicate and work toward common goals while protecting the economic viability of a region, amazing things can be accomplished in the name of conservation. Rogge and Wanderaas, both ranchers from the area, expressed these convictions to Mike Blenden, Regional Refuge Manager for Montana, Wyoming, and Nevada at his office in Denver. The ranchers described the CMR Community Working Group and its diverse members ranging from landowners, Conservation District (CD) supervisors, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), agencies and interested citizens, and the importance of the CMR staff maintaining involvement with the group. Then they briefed Blenden on current cooperative conservation efforts spearheaded by the CDs that involved the Refuge as a partner, such as the Montana Saltcedar Team and the Montana Sage Grouse Initiative (SGI) program. Blenden was understandably impressed by the extent of positive activities initiated by the local CDs and intrigued at the extent to which districts have reached out to the Refuge as partners.

“For any conservation effort to be successful, it has to have local buy-in and support”, Dean Rogge advocated. Mike Blenden agreed and conveyed that the new era for Refuge management was to work in cooperation with the local community, and not operate as an island of federal land with a completely different management objective. Mr. Blenden expressed his interest in attending a CMR CWG meeting in person and a new-found appreciation for the local communities and their potential to enhance the overall experience of the CMR. MRCDC believes the meeting set the stage for a positive relationship between CDs and the new Refuge Manager, who should be on the job sometime early in 2015.

The trip to Denver concluded with a short meeting with Michael Thabault, Assistant Regional Director of Ecological Services. Mr. Thabault is leading the Service’s efforts to determine if the Greater Sage Grouse should be listed as endangered. Rogge and Wanderaas conveyed the interest of Montana landowners to creating a similar success story for sage grouse as the story of Arctic Graying in the Big Hole Valley, where it was recently determined that the species did not warrant federal protection. Thabault provided insight on the decision making process employed by the Fish and Wildlife Service and educational opportunities for landowners to understand the implications of having an endangered species on their land. MRCDC will work with the Montana Association of Conservation Districts (MACD) and other groups to bring these educational opportunities to Montana landowners.

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See new photos

See new cover crop photos!

Go to:  Projects

Then go to:  Cover Crops

You’re nearly there.  Now go to:  1. HB223 Grant

There you will find photos from 5 local producers.

Order your Bugs here! Yup, really–Bugs!

We are taking orders for BUGS…otherwise known as biological control of Canada thistle.  Each carton will contain at least 105 insects each.   Please refer to the Biological Control under the Projects links for more information and costs.