Friends to pull salt cedar from Monument

How would you like to get outside this summer on some of your central Montana public lands and help save the Missouri River’s endangered cottonwood trees?

IMG_9927

River floaters relaxing in the shade of the cottonwoods at the end of a day of paddling on the Wild and Scenic Missouri River. You can help us save these endangered cottonwood forests! (Photo Scott Bosse.)

Then please join the Friends of the Missouri Breaks Monument on July 22 and 23 as we pull salt cedar from the Wild and Scenic Missouri River, which stretches through central Montana from historic Fort Benton to the wild prairies and badlands of the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge.

You may know that cottonwood trees are struggling along the Wild and Scenic Missouri. The majority of the stately giants along the river are older than 50. And young trees deposited in recent floods are facing stiff competition from weeds. That’s why the Friends of the Missouri Breaks Monument are working to remove invasive salt cedar from the river corridor, to give the young trees deposited in the floods of 2011 the chance to grow.

missouri-78

Cottonwood forests on the Wild and Scenic Missouri River are dying of old age, and new trees are hard to come by. Join us this summer in removing invasive salt cedar that’s outcompeting the new cottonwoods. (Photo Bob Wick, BLM.)

You can help. Please join the Friends on July 22 and 23 and lend a hand to weed removal on the river. You’ll be joining Montana Conservation Corps (MCC) crews to hand-pull small weeds, use hand tools for bigger weeds, and help the crews inventory the area. Crews that week will be based at Judith Landing, northwest of Lewistown on the Wild and Scenic Missouri River. You can drive up for the day, or camp out overnight under the bowl of stars. To sign up for one or both days, please email Friends Restoration and Volunteer Coordinator Sara Meloy at sara@missouribreaks.org.

The weeds work is part of a larger collaborative effort by the Friends, MCC, the Bureau of Land Management, and the Missouri River Conservation Districts Council, to help restore and protect the Monument’s aging cottonwood galleries. The MCC work is being made possible by generous funding from PP&L Montana.

“This collaborative group is the first of its kind on this stretch of river,” said Friends Executive Director Beth Kampschror. “We’re excited about getting a handle on this salt cedar invasion while it’s still new enough to hand pull.”

The Friends have plenty of other volunteer opportunities for you to consider this summer – including another weed pull slated for August. Events are available on the Friends website at www.missouribreaks.org/events.

The Friends of the Missouri Breaks Monument is a 501(c)(3) organization that protects and preserves the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument by educating the public, advocating for responsible access and environmentally responsible uses, and supporting groups and agencies that protect and restore the Monument. We’re on the web at www.missouribreaks.org, and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/friendsofthemissouribreaks.

 

Friends join historic preservation group on the Missouri River

Montana’s major historic preservation group invited us to participate in their traveling Road Show in Lewistown earlier this month, and we were delighted to be able to join them for their tour of the Wild and Scenic Missouri River.

“The idea is to get people out to see and experience these places, so that they will care about preserving them,” Montana Preservation Alliance‘s Christine Brown told us on the yellow school bus that took us up to Judith Landing for a day-long canoe trip on the Missouri.

Shades of junior high: MPA's Christine Brown takes roll call on the bus. (Photo Friends.)

Shades of junior high: MPA’s Christine Brown takes roll call on the bus. (Photo Friends.)

But first, the bus dropped us in the Monument gateway town of Winifred, Montana (pop. 208) to have a look at the Winifred Museum. It was my first time stopping in at the museum, and it did not disappoint. I spent a lot of time appreciating the historic gun collection and the life-sized model of the enormous tri-horned dinosaur skull found in the area.

Close-up of a shotgun owned by the foreman of Granville Stuart's historic DHS ranch. Pretty cool! (Photo Friends.)

Close-up of a shotgun owned by the foreman of Granville Stuart’s historic DHS ranch. Pretty cool! (Photo Friends.)

Our next stop was Judith Landing, and we heard historical and cultural background from Maria Zedeno, an anthropology professor (and expert on Blackfeet) at the University of Arizona, and from Helena-based historian Stephenie Ambrose Tubbs.

Historian Stephenie Ambrose Tubbs (right) tells the group about the Judith River's namesake, Judith Hancock Clark, who was the first wife of explorer William Clark (of Lewis and Clark fame). (Photo Friends.)

Historian Stephenie Ambrose Tubbs (right) tells the group about the Judith River’s namesake, Judith Hancock Clark, who was the first wife of explorer Capt. William Clark (of Lewis and Clark fame). (Photo Friends.)

And then we piled into canoes to paddle to the Hagadone Homestead, about 12 miles down the river. Or up river, as it felt like with the 20-30 mile/hour headwinds. This photo probably won’t do justice to how hard it was blowing that day — in the really windy spots, I was too busy paddling to take good photos of the white caps on the river.

And we're off! One group of eight paddles toward Hagadone homestead, about 12 miles downstream. (Photo Friends.)

And we’re off! One group of eight paddles toward Hagadone homestead, about 12 miles downstream. (Photo Friends.)

It might have been a hard paddle, but as always on what we call the “lower river” (Judith Landing to James Kipp Rec Area), the wildlife put on an excellent show. We saw bald eagles, white pelicans, a nighthawk, and the biggest softshell turtle I’d ever seen, slipping into the river off the point of a small island. Later in the day we saw five Bighorn rams in the uplands.

But back to the history. Our only stop was the Hagadone homestead, so named for the tough homesteader Frank Hagadone, who came to Montana as a range cowboy in the 19th century and stayed to farm a lonely plot of land in the Breaks.

BLM archaeologist Zane Fulbright (left), tells about the Hagadones surviving rattlesnakes and long silent winters at the homestead named for them on the Monument. (Photo Friends.)

BLM archaeologist Zane Fulbright (left), tells the Preservation Alliance crowd about the Hagadones surviving rattlesnakes and long silent winters at the homestead named for them on the Monument. (Photo Friends.)

Then it was back in the canoes for a short jaunt over to Stafford Ferry, where our yellow school bus awaited.

A Preservation Alliance supporter rows like the dickens to get us to Stafford Ferry in one piece. We made it! (Photo Friends.)

A Preservation Alliance supporter rows like the dickens to get us to Stafford Ferry in one piece. We made it! (Photo Friends.)

Wind-blasted or no, I kept thinking of one of the BLM managers in Lewistown, who likes to point out, “Any day on the river is a good day.” And it was especially good to get a historical perspective on this river we work to protect. I am usually struck by the natural history of this river, but the thousands of years of human history on the Wild and Scenic Missouri is also such an important part of what makes the Monument so special. Thank you, MPA, for inviting us on this trip and for letting us chat with your members about how they can help us protect the Monument!

– Beth Kampschror, Executive Director

 

 

Our spring newsletter is out!

Our spring 2014 newsletter is out!

Spring 2014 newsletter jpeg

Please click on the link below to read about:

  • How you can help us save the Missouri River’s cottonwood galleries, and an intro to our new Restoration and Volunteer Coordinator.
  • The fun stuff you can do with us on the Monument this volunteer season, both on the river and off.
  • Highlights from cottonwoods and ferrets talks we sponsored in Great Falls and Lewistown.

Friends newsletter Spring 2014

Our members got the early-bird special — a paper copy of the newsletter mailed to them in late April. If you’d like the same, as well as that warm fuzzy feeling that comes from supporting a mighty little group like the Friends, please click here to join the Friends today. Thanks for all you do!

– Beth Kampschror, Executive Director

Cottonwood Planting 101: A guide to success

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…

Step One: 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.

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.

Volunteers load up for the 20 mile journey.

Did we mention it was cold?  (Photo Friends)

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).

After scrambling up the icy river bank, volunteers arrive at the landing site (Photo Friends).

The boats rest below the ice line (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).

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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

Success! Fifty new trees join the ranks of the cottonwood gallery near Dark Butte.

Thanks, volunteers and BLM for a beautiful, sunny day!

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 sara@missouribreaks.org to register today!

 

 

 

Happy 13th birthday, Missouri Breaks Monument!

Today we celebrate the Monument’s 13th birthday!

Eagle Creek campground, in the iconic White Cliffs section of the Monument. We'll be joining BLM to clean up this section of the river on May 14. Join us! (Photo Bob Wick, BLM.)

Eagle Creek campground, in the iconic White Cliffs section of the Monument.  (Photo Bob Wick, BLM.)

It was on this day in 2001 that President Bill Clinton proclaimed nearly 400,000 acres of central Montana prairies and badlands (with 149 miles of the Wild and Scenic Missouri River flowing through it) as the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument.

And here’s why it’s worth protecting, from the proclamation:

The area remains remote and nearly as undeveloped as it was in 1805. Many of the biological objects described in Lewis and Clark’s journals continue to make the monument their home. The monument boasts the most viable elk herd in Montana and one of the premier big horn sheep herds in the continental United States. It contains essential winter range for sage grouse as well as habitat for prairie dogs. Lewis sent Jefferson a prairie dog specimen which was, as Lewis noted at the time, “new to science.” Abundant plant life along the River and across the Breaks country supports this wildlife. The lower reach of the Judith River, just above its confluence with the Missouri, contains one of the few remaining fully functioning cottonwood gallery forest ecosystems on the Northern Plains. Arrow Creek, originally called Slaughter River by Lewis and Clark, contains the largest concentration of antelope and mule deer in the monument as well as important spawning habitat for the endangered pallid sturgeon. An undammed tributary to the Missouri River, Arrow Creek is a critical seed source for cottonwood trees for the flood plain along the Missouri.

And what makes it even more special is that the Monument is part of America’s newest, permanently protected collection of public lands: the National Conservation Lands. These lands are managed not by the National Park Service — with its fees, rules, paved trails and interpretive signs posted everywhere — but by the Bureau of Land Management. These lands, 28 million acres in all, are free and open for you to explore on your own. These lands are the last places in America where you can truly get away from it all.

Read more about the Conservation Lands here. Or have a look at this map, and start planning your next adventure. And join our mailing list if you’d like to find out more about how the Friends of the Missouri Breaks Monument work not only to preserve and protect our Monument in Montana, but also work to preserve and protect all of America’s National Conservation Lands.

We are honored to be working to protect this amazing place. Thanks for all you do to help.

– Beth Kampschror, Executive Director

Four days ’til National Public Lands Day!

Please join us as we celebrate our nation’s single largest day of volunteering on public lands with a few hours of light work at James Kipp Recreation Area!

Friends volunteers pulling weeds at Kipp last year. Join us this year for another fun day out that helps our public lands! (Photo Friends.)

Friends volunteers pulling weeds at Kipp last year. Join us this year for another fun day out that helps our public lands! (Photo Friends.)

We’ll meet at Kipp (where Highway 191 crosses the Missouri) at 9 am, pull some weeds, pick up some trash, fill some holes with gravel, and then we’ll eat an enormous lunch courtesy of the Friends. Bring water if you like. We’ll be finished with work and lunch by 2 pm.

Our partners at BLM are providing all the tools we’ll need to get the jobs done, but of course you’re welcome to bring your own gloves.

Saturday’s forecast is sunny, with temps in the 60s — a welcome change from the winter weather advisories we’re getting this week.

Please RSVP to me by calling 502-1334 or to Nikki by emailing nikki@missouribreaks.org. Thanks for all you do to help us protect and preserve our precious public lands, including the Upper Missouri Breaks National Monument. Looking forward to seeing you on Saturday!

– Beth Kampschror, Executive Director

More Nat Geo coverage for the Monument!

National Geographic shines its spotlight on the Monument once again. This time, the website’s so-called digital nomad has posted a dispatch about his recent canoe trip down the Wild and Scenic Missouri.

P1060553

Canoeing the Missouri in the White Cliffs section of the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument. National Geographic’s digital nomad has just given the trip his stamp of approval. (Photo Friends.)

This nomad, Andrew Evans, has the enviable job of traveling the world and posting dispatches on the magazine’s website. So we were eager to see what this seasoned traveler thought of the Monument. Here’s an excerpt:

And what I mean is that we paddled for one entire day down the Missouri River and for that day, I observed not a single sign of human civilization: no boats, no roads, no cars, no planes, no cities—not even a telephone wire. For one entire day of travel, I only saw nature, from a distance—or in one case, up close.

And here’s another:

Overall, nothing has changed in this part of the world, and somehow, I am surprised by this. I do not know any other place in the United States of America that has remained unchanged since its first recorded description—except here; the “curious scenery” that Lewis described, the towering white-grey Virgelle sandstone, and this slithering Missouri—the very shape of the river resembling a shy rattlesnake, curving back and forth into the farthest north of the lower 48.

To read the rest of Andrew’s wonderful dispatch, click here. We are so pleased that the Monument is getting such great coverage from one of the world’s best-known magazines/websites. (You might remember the Monument made Nat Geo Traveler’s “Best Trips 2013” list earlier this year.)

– Beth Kampschror, Executive Director

Missouri Breaks Moose!

Sean Reynolds is a River Ranger for the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument. While conducting a routine White Cliffs patrol, he experienced something quite unusual and exciting this past week. Here’s his diary.

My fellow Ranger, Aaron Conway, and I were on a normal 3 day canoe patrol through the White Cliffs, and on the last night we wanted to camp around the Flat Rock area on the south side of the river.  We wanted to camp around that area because there is a hidden coulee that we have wanted to hike for some time now, feeling that there was something special about the place.  That night, we had no energy to hike, so we actually went to sleep by 8, despite the heat.  I woke up at 6 to go for a good morning hike up in the hills, and I heard a weird groan outside in camp.  I thought, “that’s strange, Aaron isn’t usually up this early”.  Then I heard loud splashes, as if someone was walking up.  I unzipped my tent fly and standing there about 30 feet from my tent, out in the river, was a moose! 

Cow moose at dawn, just beyond river mile 80.5, known as Flat Rock. (Photo by BLM)

Cow moose at dawn, just beyond river mile 80.5, known as Flat Rock. (Photo by BLM)

Cow moose enjoying an early morning dip in the Missouri River. (Photo by BLM)

Cow moose enjoying an early morning dip in the Missouri River. (Photo by BLM)

I began to shake with excitement, because this sort of encounter is just unheard of out in the Missouri Breaks.  I had my camera close to hand, so I instantly grabbed it and was able to snap a series of pictures while it walked through our camp.  At one point, it was walking towards Aaron’s tent.  Not wanting him to miss this incredible experience, I whisper/shouted his name.  I saw him sit up in his not so private, all mesh screen tent, and his first view that day was a young moose, just 8 feet away staring down at him!  The two year old cow moose at this time had had enough of us and our campsite, and she wasted no time in running up the hill.  Now, I’ve seen a fair number of cool things in my four seasons out on the river, but I never thought I would see a moose striding out through the sagebrush, cacti and yucca! 

Young moose walks through campground of two BLM Rangers on the Monument. (Photo by BLM)

Young moose walks through campground of two BLM Rangers on the Monument. (Photo by BLM)

Young moose casually walks by a resting Ranger camping in the Monument. (Photo by BLM)

Young moose casually walks by a resting Ranger camping in the Monument. (Photo by BLM)

Aaron and I talked for a while about how exciting and rare that encounter was, and how lucky we were to witness the moose.  He mentioned that he heard some grunting and splashing the night before, but didn’t think to look outside.   Later, our upstream neighbors at Flat Rock also said that they heard the splashing in front of their site, but no one took a look outside.  With all the bovine, deer and elk out there, surely those are the only things splashing around, right?  I ended up going for the hike that we River Rangers have wanted to embark on for long time now, and sure enough it’s where the moose was hanging out.  With a little spring seep, lush vegetation, and dark coulee walls, it must have found enough habitat to live there for a while. 

Cow moose flees to safety up to the highlands in the Monument. (Photo by BLM)

Cow moose flees to safety up to the highlands of the Missouri Breaks. (Photo by BLM)

Cow moose resting in a hidden forested coulee in the Upper Missouri Breaks. (Photo by BLM)

Cow moose resting in a hidden forested coulee in the Missouri Breaks. (Photo by BLM)

Surely just passing through, the moose seemed out of place on the muddy Missouri.  But wouldn’t it be great to have a population established out there?  This appears to be about the only documented sighting of a moose on the Missouri below the confluence of the Marias River.  Let’s hope we have more!

-Ranger Sean Reynolds

Please feel free to share your own wildlife encounters in the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument. This place holds treasures and tales that have yet to be told!

Friends, BLM clean up White Cliffs

Plan B is a must. Or so a local non-profit is figuring out when it comes to their volunteer events on the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument.

Friends volunteers in the first boat from Coal Banks Landing. (Photo Friends.)

Friends volunteers in the first boat from Coal Banks Landing. (Photo Friends.)

The Friends of the Missouri Breaks and river rangers with the Bureau of Land Management had calendared their annual cleanup of the 49-mile White Cliffs section of the Missouri River for Thursday, June 20 – the morning after the biggest, baddest thunderstorm of the year moved across north-central Montana.

Trip leaders thought the massive storm might put Plan B into play, as the roads down to the launch points were under an inch of water the night of the storm. But by the next morning, the roads had dried up enough to allow the stalwart volunteers to maneuver their vehicles through the remaining puddles.

What prompted Plan B was a faulty wheel on a BLM boat trailer. As rangers slowed to take the turnoff down to Coal Banks Landing, the left back wheel blasted off the trailer, smoking. Luckily no one was hurt, and the boat was fine too.

But with one boat unavailable, rangers formulated that Plan B. Rather than two boats taking volunteers down to Hole in the Wall campground (river mile 64), the one available boat would shuttle two groups of volunteers down.

Friends volunteer Kirby Hoon (below) and BLM river ranger Sean Reynolds snatch tires from the banks of the Missouri River. (Photo Friends.)

Friends volunteer Kirby Hoon (below) and BLM river ranger Sean Reynolds snatch tires from the banks of the Missouri River. (Photo Friends.)

It meant more trips for BLM, but it also meant more opportunities to pull junk from the Missouri River. In one spot alone, the second group of volunteers picked up several tires, a fence post and an old bed rail. And the extra time at Hole in the Wall campground allowed volunteers to get a lot of work done there – cleaning and painting the fire rings, weed-wacking, and cleaning and stocking the pit toilets.

Friends volunteers and BLM staff at Hole in the Wall campground. BLM boated volunteers from Coal Banks and from Judith Landing, and we met in the middle for lunch. (Photo Friends.)

Friends volunteers and BLM staff at Hole in the Wall campground. BLM boated volunteers from Coal Banks and from Judith Landing, and we met in the middle for lunch. (Photo Friends.)

All of this was done before lunch, which the Friends provided for the 15 volunteers, who turned out from Fort Benton, Havre, Lewistown, and Great Falls, and from as far away as Choteau to lend a hand.

“We couldn’t do this without the Friends,” said BLM Supervisory Outdoor Recreation Planner Mark Schaefer of the BLM-Friends river cleanup, which is now an annual event on the Friends’ growing volunteer calendar.

Already this year, Friends volunteers have planted cottonwoods, spruced up campgrounds and cleaned up the White Cliffs section of the river, contributing more than $6,000 in volunteer labor to the Monument. And the season is just getting started.

Tires and trash weren't the only things we found -- check out this beaver footprint! (Photo Friends.)

Tires and trash weren’t the only things we found — check out this beaver footprint! (Photo Friends.)

“We are so grateful to all the volunteers who have turned out so far this year and committed their precious time and energy to our public lands,” said Friends executive director Beth Kampschror. “This work is even more meaningful now that BLM’s budgets are slimming down – we are doing all we can to help BLM get the job done on the Monument.”

Volunteers walking up the boat ramp at the end of the long day out. Thank you, volunteers, for committing your time to the Monument! (Photo Friends.)

Volunteers walking up the boat ramp at the end of the long day out. Thank you, volunteers, for committing your time to the Monument! (Photo Friends.)

If you’re interested in volunteering with the Friends this season, please join the group’s mailing list at www.missouribreaks.org, or by texting the phrase MISSOURIBREAKS to the number 22828 on your cell phone.

The Friends of the Missouri Breaks is a 501(c)(3) organization that protects and preserves the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument by educating the public, advocating for responsible access and environmentally responsible uses, and supporting groups and agencies that protect and restore the Monument. We’re on the web at missouribreaks.org, as well as at facebook.com/friendsofthemissouribreaks.

Friends, BLM spruce up Coal Banks Landing

Wear your shades when you’re next at Coal Banks Landing on the Missouri River.

If you don’t, you might be blinded by the fresh paint in the bathrooms, and the shiny new coats of linseed oil on the wooden posts. Or dazzled by the fresh gravel on the paths and the tidied-up windbreak.

Doing the buffing and polishing of the popular launch point on the river were 10 volunteers with the Friends of the Missouri Breaks Monument, the non-profit organization that supports the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument.

Friends volunteer Len Kopec applies protective linseed oil to the posts at Coal Banks. (Photo BLM.)

Friends volunteer Len Kopec applies protective linseed oil to the posts at Coal Banks. (Photo BLM.)

With all of the good organization and large amounts of work getting done, the casual observer would never know that this Coal Banks event was actually the group’s backup plan. The Friends were initially scheduled for their annual cleanup of the 49-mile White Cliffs section of the river, to prepare it for boating season. BLM was to pilot the fleet of jet boats; the Friends would serve lunch.

But as is often the case in central Montana, the wind had other ideas.

BLM ranger Brian Woolf (right) and Friends volunteers shovel new gravel off the truck and onto the paths at Coal Banks. (Photo Friends.)

BLM ranger Brian Woolf (right) and Friends volunteers shovel new gravel off the truck and onto the paths at Coal Banks. (Photo Friends.)

So instead of putting the Friends volunteers on the river to face three-foot swells, BLM lead ranger Brian Woolf and Friends volunteer coordinator Nikki Lister nimbly swapped the Coal Banks cleanup – slated for June – onto the schedule. And voila! Instead of boats, coolers and sunscreen, the volunteers were greeted with rakes, wheelbarrows, paint and linseed oil. And loaner Leathermans for removing old ground cloth from the Coal Banks windbreak. “Just try to remember which end is the sharp one,” deadpanned one ranger as he handed a volunteer his Leatherman.

Just a few short hours later, the 10 volunteers had painted the bathrooms, graveled the paths, coated the wooden posts with protective linseed oil, and pulled out a good amount of old ground cloth from the windbreak. And they got that lunch.

Friends volunteers spreading gravel on the paths at Coal Banks. (Photo Friends.)

Friends volunteers spreading gravel on the paths at Coal Banks. (Photo Friends.)

“It may not have been the day on the river we’d all been looking forward to, but we were happy we were able to put Plan B into play and not turn away our valuable group of volunteers,” said Friends executive director Beth Kampschror. “And we rescheduled our river cleanup for next month, so we’re looking forward to working with BLM then too – if the wind lets us this time.”

Friends volunteers and BLM staff in front of the freshly graveled paths at Coal Banks. Thank you to everyone who turned out! Coal Banks looks great thanks to your dedication. (Photo Friends.)

Friends volunteers and BLM staff in front of the freshly graveled paths at Coal Banks. Thank you to everyone who turned out! Coal Banks looks great thanks to your dedication. (Photo Friends.)

The Friends of the Missouri Breaks is a 501(c)(3) organization that protects and preserves the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument by educating the public, advocating for responsible access and environmentally responsible uses, and supporting groups and agencies that protect and restore the Monument. We’re on the web at missouribreaks.org, as well as at facebook.com/friendsofthemissouribreaks.