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Fleshman Creek Restoration Project

Picture of DVD label featuring students working at creek.The Fleshman Creek Restoration Project near Livingston, Montana, is representative of progress that can be made when multiple partners get together and agree to each contribute to a project addressing a shared concern. NRCS; Livingston Public Schools; Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks; the Joe Brooks Chapter of Trout Unlimited, Oasis Environmental; and Park County all worked together to restore one of the reaches of Fleshman Creek.

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Fleshman Creek Restoration Project (SWF; 10 minutes, 30 seconds; 33.6 MB)

Transcript of "Fleshman Creek Restoration Project" Video

The Fleshman Creek Restoration Project is representative of progress that can be made when multiple partners get together and agree to each contribute to a project addressing a shared concern. Tim Griffiths is a biologist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Montana NRCS is one of the partners in the Fleshman Creek project.

This project is a comprehensive creek restoration on a property owned by Doctor Dan Voyich there in Livingston. And, basically, what happened, originally, was Park County, um, had some money they wanted to contribute to a water quality improvement project in Park County. They knew the landowner, brought us involved to write an overall conservation plan for him. Ah, at the time we looked at maybe just simply fencing off a creek.

An inventory analysis determined there was much more that needed to be done. Ah, we needed to establish riparian pastures where we could actually manage livestock within this to aid in the recovery of the riparian vegetation. We had to plant the very extensive re-vegetation effort, control noxious weeds, so the whole nine yards.

NRCS, through its Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program, provided cost-share funding.

Um, we also partnered with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks through a Future Fisheries program and Trout Unlimited through their various grant sources.

The environmental benefits derived from this project were definitely long-term benefits.

The primary ones are water quality, for sure. In the pre-existing it was a very wide, shallow, sediment-rich stream which contributes not only to higher water temperatures, but also to reduced fishery habitats. Wildlife habitat is very limited as a result of no trees, shrubs, and sedges and all the things that wildlife use. So, improved water quality and improved fish wildlife habitat are by far the two primary goals of the project.

Doctor Dan Voyich is the owner of the ranch property through which the Fleshman Creek runs.

Well, this is just an exceptional job. Ah, that’s much more than I ever expected. I thought this was just going to be a short week or two and it would be over with but this thing ballooned out to be just a beautiful job. And I think this thing will be here hundreds of years from now and...

Jim Durgan is a Paradise Valley rancher and served as a Park County Commissioner.

Park County is really interested in this project and we’re really happy that it’s finally coming around. Ah, it’s, we’ve always been interested in the water quality and also in the, ah, in flood control measures because we have a corresponding project going on the lower reach of this creek..

Carol Endicott, a biologist with the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, says the Fleshman Creek project fit well into a grant program called, the Future Fisheries.

The Future Fisheries Improvement Program is a grant program that funds fish habitat restoration projects throughout Montana. And I applied for one of those grants for this project. The panel looked really favorably at this project, um, largely because of the education component. And, um, and also just because of the benefits to fish and water quality because Fleshman Creek does support Yellowstone cutthroat trout..

From my perspective and, I think, from the commission’s perspective the things that were most important to us were a) obviously that it had a very strong rehabilitation component, especially as it related to Yellowstone cutthroat habitat and Yellowstone cutthroat populations; and secondly, we really loved the youth education component of the, ah, of the project and the fact that Livingston public schools and, I would assume, other Park County schools are going to have the opportunity to be involved in this project and learn from this sort of rehabilitation.

Endicott is the Yellowstone cutthroat trout restoration biologist. She helps landowners obtain technical and financial assistance for projects benefitting the Yellowstone cutthroat trout.

Well, the Yellowstone cutthroat trout is native to Montana, and, um, it’s really declined in numbers and distribution throughout its historic range. And, um, so the goals with respect to cutthroat trout restoration is to re-establish them where they’ve been lost and to protect the populations that we have. And this area here, this upper Yellowstone, is really a stronghold for cutthroat trout. They are present in Fleshman Creek and it’s got really high conservation value as a result of, of supporting apparently pure fish.

Another organization playing an active role in the Fleshman Creek restoration project is Trout Unlimited. Kerry Fee, president of Joe Brooks Trout Unlimited for Park and Sweet Grass Counties.

Our mission is to conserve, protect and restore the Yellowstone River and its tributaries. And this project definitely fits within that mission.

Fee says the fact Livingston school students would be learning and helping on this project was of significant interest to his organization.

Well, you know, we, our chapter is working very hard, um, to bring the, bring the kids into the fold and get them more interested in conservation and what we do as Trout Unlimited. And, and this project here, being able to get the kids down here to actually help with the planting of the vegetation. And then, then it’ll become theirs and then take, take care of the monitoring and so forth. And, um, what that does is, is basically it creates these new stewards for the land. And that, that’s a big thing that I’m involved in, is, is trying to make sure that when I’m not doing this anymore, that somebody else is doing it.

Livingston school students have been involved in this project since its inception. Todd Wester is the Livingston Public Schools curriculum director.

Livingston Public Schools has been looking for opportunities to do project-based, place-based learning. And that would be, ah, students doing authentic projects in which they come out, they take, ah, measurements, go back to the classroom, analyze the data, draw conclusions, make recommendations about what to do, and then maybe execute a plan. And it turned out that this project just fit our desire to do project-based, place-based learning to a “T”.

The project has taken over a year to complete. Tim Griffiths is going to take a look back for us at progress made at different stages.

OK, this is the start of the project. This is right, or the end of the project depending on how you want to look at it, this is where the creek terminates from the property, goes under the big ditch. And this is a very typical situation where we had, ah, a lot of shallow, wide, sediment-, you know, laden bottoms in the creek in a before condition.

Then this upper reach of the creek, we had a very incised channel that came right at the toe of this slope. And all the grade basically was taken up in the first couple hundred feet, where it was really a steep drop. And so what we did was, we raised that bed elevation way up. Like in this particular situation, the bed elevation here is two to three feet than it was previously. So from the top of the reach down to the bottom, we basically tilted that grade on its axis so we could have a nice pool-rift sequence through 2500 feet instead of a steep run at 200 feet.

There’s a composite, um, system of coir fabric underlayed by a coconut blanket. And the coconut blanket provides an interface to hold back soil particles from migrating through, ah, the coir fabric. And the coir fabric is providing some sheer strength, um, against heavy flows until the plants can start to, you know, germinate.

We constructed this section about two weeks ago, is all. And with the moisture and the late fall temperatures that we’ve had you can start to see all of these plants starting to germinate already under the coir.

Back in March of 2010, students from Livingston High School began an extended project to re-vegetate the banks along the creek.

We’re out, we’re, we’ve got a group of students from my ag 3 and 4 class and also my horticulture class. And we’re taking willow cuttings with the goal of eventually, when the spring weather starts warming up, we’re going to plant those on Fleshman Creek. Last spring we had the opportunity to, um, work with a variety of departments to, um, look at restoring about a mile section of Fleshman Creek.

We, ah, revamped about 3,000 lineal feet of that stream this summer and this fall. And we’ve got it all graded and shaped and have fabric along it. And we’re going to come and sprig these willows in along that bank for, ah, vegetation purposes and hold that streambank and stuff.

First thing we knew, we had four or five people that were interested and then Tim comes on board and the next thing we had was a whopping job, you know, to be done. And so it turned out to be just a beautiful, beautiful thing. And I, I thought they were just going there with a Caterpillar or something and widen it out a little bit or something but it didn’t turn out that way. So I think it’s a great thing.

Drive down Highway 10 near Livingston, and you’ll see a sign on the South side of the road identifying the site of the Fleshman Creek Restoration Project. That sign was donated by Trout Unlimited. The Fleshman Creek restoration – a fine partnership.