Back to Agenda 

Blackfoot River restoration: A 30-year review of a wild trout conservation endeavor

Instructor:  Ron Pierce, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, retired

Materials students should bring: note taking supplies

Materials will receive: handouts and protocols (digital and paper)

Workshop Description:
The Blackfoot River restoration endeavor is an ongoing collaborative, comprehensive and successful river conservation story in western North America.  This workshop describes the restoration framework and process that shaped the first 30 years of this wild trout conservation story.  The program began in the late 1980s when fish population surveys identified widespread habitat degradation and depleted numbers of wild trout throughout lower elevations of the Blackfoot River basin and the precarious status of migratory native trout.  These initial findings triggered basin-wide protective angling regulations for native trout, followed by fish populations surveys in all streams.  Fisheries data were then combined with basin-wide, aquatic habitat assessments to facilitate a collaborative multi-scale restoration methodology that improved the ecological integrity of the river and its tributaries.  Elements of the restoration framework include:
1) how basin-scale fish and habitat data collections helped to identify human-induced limiting factors, promote landowner education/cooperation, pilot restoration projects, and prioritize tributary restoration work;
2) how passive restoration (e.g., grazing and revegetation) ), active restoration (e.g., fish screens, channel reconstruction) techniques, and the concept of the reference reach were integrated within the restoration framework, and
3) the essential role of watershed groups in fund-raising, implementation planning and watershed-scale conservation easement protection especially on private ranchlands. 

Finally, this workshop summarizes programmatic elements, specific case studies and restoration techniques that preceded wild trout population expansion in the tributaries and main stem Blackfoot River.  The purpose of this workshop is to help others understand how we approached and implemented a major watershed restoration program.