Read on for a recap of our 2015 cottonwood planting! This story below was published in the Great Falls Tribune, among other local and regional newspapers.
This spring, 150 new cottonwood trees are taking root at two sites in the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument, thanks to the Friends, BLM, and 20 hard-working volunteers.
“This project is our most popular volunteer event of the year,” said Sara Meloy, Restoration Coordinator for the Friends. “Just about everyone can get behind the idea of planting a tree.”
Cottonwood forests – so important for wildlife, shade, and overall river health – are in decline along this stretch of the Missouri River. There’s very little natural regeneration of these trees due to flood control, ice jams, and human development. The majority of the trees are more than 50 years old.
That’s why collaborative efforts by the Friends, BLM and other partners to restore these forests are critical. This year’s planting project, generously funded by NorthWestern Energy, marks the third year of successively bigger and more-remote planting projects that will eventually begin to regenerate significant stretches of new trees on the river. Considering that a mile-long stretch of riverbank may only hold 40 mature cottonwoods, planting 150 trees is a huge increase.
Planting cottonwoods will not be a heal-all solution to restore habitat on the entire river, but it’s a step in the right direction. Other activities the Friends, BLM and other partners are working on include removing invasive weeds that outcompete native cottonwoods and willows and exploring fencing projects to create riparian pastures.
“We want to do everything we can to help BLM get conservation work done on the Monument,” said Friends Executive Director Beth Kampschror. “And regenerating cottonwoods is something we can do that will make an enormous difference, thanks to our great partners and amazing volunteers.”
The April plantings saw Friends’ volunteers turn out from Havre, Lewistown, Billings, Helena, Choteau, Great Falls, and Fort Benton. The Friends have plenty of other cottonwood-related and other events coming up this field season. For more information, please click over to missouribreaks.org/events.
If you’d like to help in the field, please contact Friends Restoration and Volunteer Coordinator Sara Meloy at email@example.com.