Here in Montana, especially Lewis & Clark County, our environment has adapted to dry conditions and extreme temperatures. We are home to some of the most fascinating and intricate water systems in the world. Montana is a headwater state for the United States and maintaining a healthy water system begins with healthy riparian vegetation. Having healthy and sturdy stream banks provides endless benefits to all water users no matter the species. Stabilization through grasses, shrubs, trees, and plants can establish a good root system to assist in stabilizing stream banks, regulating water temperature, reduce sediment loads, create shelter and food for all water seeking species, and reduces nutrient levels. Riparian vegetation assists with slowing the lateral movement of stream channels which is important for erosion of crop land, flooding, and other environmental aspects. Infrastructure, development, and over-grazing can lead to a depletion of the riparian areas which in turn can result in faster channel migration, braided channels, widened channels, increased erosion and sedimentation which reduces water quality.
The need for successful riparian areas in Montana changes depending on the lake, creek, stream, or river. Larger streams and rivers, with faster flows, will require the use of trees, shrubs, and other woody species with deep root systems to stabilize the streambanks. For smaller streams you can use smaller species however, deep root systems are key. You can use sedges and deeper rooted grasses. However, you may need to implement a more active streambank restoration process through the use of bio-engineering. Please see the engineering methods of our site.
The Conservation District works with a wide array of water users to help implement and fund best management practices (BMPs) and reduce noxious weeds while increasing native plants throughout Lewis & Clark County to establish and maintain healthy riparian areas. Please see the stream permitting section and if you have any further questions or concerns be sure to contact the Lewis & Clark Conservation District if you are planning ANY project that will affect the bed and/or banks of a stream.
Always check with the Conservation District prior to planning/starting a project in or near a stream. Permits may be required!!!