Since 2004, RDG has been working with private landowners, industry, and federal and state agencies to restore one of Montana’s most unique and important wetland resources located in the greater Madison River valley near Ennis, Montana. Historically, the O’Dell Spring Creek headwaters supported a very rare, fully functioning mosaic and diverse complex of wetland and spring creek habitats. Since the late 1800’s, anthropogenic activities altered these important habitats and ecosystem functions. Alterations such as ditching, draining over grazing and alteration of natural hydrology resulted in a significant loss of wetland habitat, as well as loss of function and values of the spring creek system. Channel straightening resulted in highly incised stream channels, greatly diminished riparian habitat, accelerated bank erosion, and elevated levels of fine sediment throughout the system.
Recently, priorities have shifted towards the conservation of these important aquatic and wildlife habitats. The working cattle ranches where the work is being completed have been owned and operated by the same families for generations and both are protected by perpetual conservation easements that preclude future development and ensure the continuation of excellent land stewardship practices.
Eleven phases of restoration have been completed in the O’Dell Spring Creek headwaters, including 11 miles of spring creek reconstruction, 580 acres of emergent wetland enhancement, and 35 acres of open water wetland development. RDG has been responsible for completing routine wetland delineations, performing field investigations including geomorphic and aquatic habitat departure analyses, coordinating acquisition of Light Detection and Ranging Data (LiDAR), completing project designs and regulatory permit applications, and providing construction management services. Additional phases of restoration are being planned for 2018, 2019, and 2020. Collectively, these additional phases will restore an estimated 2.7 miles of spring creek and several hundred acres of emergent and open water wetlands. Since inception of this project, landowners and resource agencies have received multiple state and national awards in recognition of their efforts to restore these important wildlife habitats while successfully integrating and balancing agricultural land-use practices.