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UM News
April 26, 2013

MISSOULA –           

University of Montana students and community volunteers will begin active restoration at the confluence of Rock Creek and the Clark Fork River on Saturday, April 27. The student-run volunteer day is the first step in a 10-year restoration plan for the site, known locally as “The Gateway of Rock Creek.”

The confluence property was proposed as a subdivision development until Five Valleys Land Trust purchased the property in 2012. FVLT, UM’s College of Forestry and Conservation, Montana Trout Unlimited, the Westslope Chapter of Trout Unlimited and the Clark Fork Coalition will work together to restore the site.

The volunteer event is geared toward families, offering fun, safe activities for younger children and plenty of work for adults and older children. Volunteers will work from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 29 Rock Creek Road. Carpools are available. Breakfast and lunch will be provided by Bagels on Broadway and El Diablo, and there also will be a drawing for prizes. 

“Rock Creek holds a special place in the hearts and minds of thousands of people who have visited its banks or who call it home,” said FVLT Conservation Director Maggie Pittman. “The students’ efforts in pulling this volunteer day together is a great way for us to begin the restoration work while building community involvement and enthusiasm.”

Saturday is the first public event at the site since the change in ownership and the first chance many community members will have to access the property. Students and volunteers will pull weeds, remove barbed wire and silt fencing, and clean up debris on the property to prepare it for future restoration projects. 

The volunteer day is organized and led by undergraduate students enrolled in the College of Forestry and Conservation’s Wildland Restoration Program. The program, developed in 2007, prepares students to tackle the complex ecological and social challenges associated with repairing ecosystems that have been degraded, damaged or destroyed. 

“The partnership between FVLT and UM’s Wildland Restoration Program gives students the opportunity to apply their knowledge to local natural resource problems, while at the same time building leadership skills and instilling the importance of community engagement,” said Cara Nelson, associate professor of restoration ecology and director of the program.

Rock Creek is a popular Blue Ribbon stream, drawing anglers from around the country. It is important spawning habitat for Montana’s native and threatened bull trout and native westslope cutthroat trout. Non-native brown trout and brook trout, also popular with anglers, thrive in Rock Creek. The region also shelters a herd of big horn sheep and is a valuable corridor for migrating deer and elk. 

Community members interested in volunteering can email rockcreekvolunteer@gmail.com

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NOTE TO MEDIA: For directions to the site and details about photo opportunities, call Nelson at 406-241-2478 or email cara.nelson@umontana.edu.

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Contact: Cara Nelson, associate professor and director of the Wildland Restoration Program, UM College of Forestry and Conservation, 406-241-2478, cara.nelson@umontana.edu.