High fives all around to our stellar volunteers and BLM partners for a successful and fun cottonwood planting last Thursday! We planted 50 trees near Dark Butte in an effort to diversify the age classes of cottonwoods in the Monument. For a nice write-up of the factors affecting these trees, check out this Missoulian article. For a “how-to” planting guide, read on…
Drink coffee. Drink good coffee. Thanks, Rising Trout Cafe!
Step Two: Appreciate your knowledgeable agency partners. Our BLM partners, including Chad Krause (below), had prepared the planting site, drilled holes, and hauled trees and equipment to Dark Butte the day before we joined them.
Chad Krause, BLM hydrologist and project planner extraordinaire, lays out the day’s game plan.
Step Three: Bundle up! The weather on Thursday was a bit chilly, but luckily we got a sunny surprise later in the morning.
Volunteers load up for the 20 mile journey.
Did we mention it was cold? (Photo Friends)
Step Four: Watch your step. In April, the riverbanks are still rife with ice breakup from the winter. This annual soil disturbance is a natural part of clearing the way for new cottonwood growth.
After scrambling up the icy river bank, volunteers arrive at the landing site (Photo Friends).
The boats rest below the ice line (Photo Friends).
Step Five: Get prepared! We split up into five groups, distributed the shovels, post pounders, and pliers, and had the work done in no time. As the sun came out, layers of jackets, hats, and coveralls began to pile up on the banks near the ice.
Tim Faber sheds a layer in preparation for the work ahead (Photo Friends).
Step Six: Prepare the trees. The plains cottonwood (Populus deltoides monilifera) cuttings came from healthy stands near Judith Landing. These trees are native to the Great Plains and can live to well over 100 years.
Willis Heron (Choteau) lops of a cottonwood cutting’s lower branches that would have been underground. This allows the tree to focus its energy on growing roots and above-ground leaves.
Jack Boyce (Lewistown) appraises a tree once it’s nestled in the ground.
Step Seven: Just add water…(and a little root growth stimulant). We set up a handy watering system to deliver water straight to the tree’s base – seven feet below ground. This involves a long PVC pipe with perforations at the bottom that gets planted right next to the tree. This way, BLM rangers can pour buckets of water down the pipe, delivering it straight to where it’s needed most – the roots!
Mara Johnson (Bozeman) and Lawrence Black (Havre) fill buckets for a watering extravaganza. Fifty riparian trees require a lot of water!
Step Eight: Build a fence. The wire caging keeps out cattle, deer, elk, and Castor canadensis and gives the trees a fighting chance until they reach maturity.
Tom Darnell of Lewistown (left) and Tim Faber (Helena) ponder the finer points of wiring.
Step Nine: Pat yourself on the back and say cheese!
Success! Fifty new trees join the ranks of the cottonwood gallery near Dark Butte.
Group photos are always better when the sun is shining. Thanks, volunteers and BLM for a beautiful day!
When it was all over, Chad summed up the day well by noting that in 100 years, people we will never meet will benefit from the shade, scenery, and life provided by the trees we planted today.
“A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.” - Greek proverb provided by one of our volunteers.
Our next volunteer event is a river cleanup on May 16 with the BLM. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to register today!