The Friends work with the Bureau of Land Management to create meaningful stewardship and volunteer events directly benefiting the Monument. Projects include everything from river cleanup and invasive species removal, to resource inventory floats and cottonwood planting. In addition to our volunteer events, we hire seasonal Treekeepers to float the river every week to water our newly planted cottonwood tree galleries, and a seasonal crew to complete conservation projects throughout the monument. Our seasonal crew and Treekeepers greatly expands the Friend’s impact on the Monument, while also providing direction for the Montana Conservation Corps crews we contract to extend our stewardship efforts.
Native plains cottonwood (Populus deltoides monilifera) trees along the Upper Missouri National Wild and Scenic River are the keystone species for the area’s riparian zones. Riparian zones comprise less than 1% of the total land area within the region, yet support the majority of animal species and are home to more bird species than all other habitats combined. However, the natural ability of cottonwoods within this stretch of the Missouri River to regenerate has been limited by flood control, grazing and human development. Today the vast majority of cottonwood trees living within the Wild and Scenic designation are over 50 years old without a younger generation of trees to take their place.
Since 2013 the Friends of the Missouri Breaks Monument has worked to remedy this trend by planting young cottonwoods along the banks of the Wild and Scenic River. Over the life of the project, almost 500 trees have been planted to provide the river’s riparian zones a brighter future. The trees received bi-weekly watering during the first two years after planting by seasonal staff and volunteers, providing the project with success rates unheard of from similar projects in comparable environments, with an equally unheard of cost/success ratio.
Invasive Species Inventory and Removal
The Friends work to inventory and remove salt cedar – a priority noxious weed – from two of the Missouri’s main tributaries, Arrow Creek and the Judith River. These tributaries are critical cottonwood seed sources in the Monument. This work has been funded by various partners, including the Montana Department of Agriculture’s Noxious Weed Trust Fund. Salt cedar isn’t well-established in the Monument yet, and we are working to keep it that way.