Silver Bow Creek, Anaconda, and the Upper Clark Fork River Basin
Westscape is a principal supplier of native shrubs to the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) Superfund sites near Butte, Anaconda, and the vast Upper Clark Fork River
Basin Restoration area of western Montana. These areas are administered by the Montana
Department of Justice’s Natural Resource Damage Program and the Montana Department
of Environmetal Quality, working together on remediation efforts.
The region encompasses numerous reclamation sites and together form the largest EPA
Superfund area in the U.S. The Upper Clark Fork drainage alone spans more than 22,000
square miles. Damage to the natural resources of this region were created by historical
mining and smelting operations at Butte and Anaconda. These disturbed sites are often
dominated by high levels of heavy metals and low soil pH. Remediation and reclamation
efforts by the state began in 1999 and are expected to continue well into the future. For
more information on these projects follow the state government links above. For news from
the Clark Fork Coalition, a citizens non-profit organization, go to http://www.clarkfork.org/
Westscape Reclamation Projects
Anaconda Uplands, Montana
Golden Currant and Water Birch
Silver Bow Creek, Montana
Silver Buffaloberry Seedlings
Silver Bow Creek, Montana
Dogwood and Shrubby Potentilla
Silver Bow Creek, Montana
Westscape Nursery August 2010
Hailstone National Wildlife Refuge, near Rapelje, Montana
Phytoremediation of Salinity and Selenium of Surface Water within Hailstone
Basin National Wildlife Refuge x Dewatering, Cleanup, and Restoration of
Basin Reservoir and Ephemeral Tributary Inflow and Outflow Channels
In 2009, Westscape Nursery entered into a multiple year contract with the U.S.
Department of the Interior via the United States Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) to use
plants, data, and other information garnered from its SBIR research grants (see below)
as part of a joint reclamation effort at the Hailstone National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in
central Montana. This is a collaborative, multi-disciplinary effort between Westscape
Nursery, Montana State University, USFWS, the United States Geologic Survey (USGS),
and the USDA-NRCS Bridger Plant Materials Center. Westscape’s principal role in this
project is to provide supporting research and plant material, and to develop strategies
for future reclamation efforts and soil stabilization efforts. Westscape works closely with
Dr. James Bauder, an internationally known soil scientist and water quality expert at
Montana State University and Russell Smith, a wetlands biologist from Livingston, MT.
Hailstone Bird Mortality
Photos Courtesy of Karen Nelson, US Fish
& Wildlife Service
Hailstone Basin is a waterfowl refuge and breeding area located approximately 3.5 miles
northeast of Rapelje, MT. This refuge has served in the past as a principal stop-over flight
for migratory birds of the Intermountain and Central Flyways. Anthropogenic factors, which
include: (1) restricted flows out of the Basin due to construction of an impoundment at the
southern end of the Basin, and (2) discharges of saline water via ephemeral tributary
channels into the basin as a consequence of long-term crop-fallow dryland cereal grain
production on the northern fringe of the Basin, have collectively contributed to
progressively increasing salinity and selenium levels within surface waters impounded
within the Basin. These circumstances of elevated salinity and selenium in surface waters
are also prevalent in seepage discharges down gradient of the existing basin
impoundment. These seepage discharges ultimately (in part) find their way to down-
gradient Halfbreed Lake National Wildlife Refuge. Water quality has deteriorated to the
point of recorded waterfowl mortality and reproduction failures.
The USFWS as well as Defenders of Wildlife Fund have both named Hailstone NWR as
one of the 10 Most Endangered Wildlife Refuges in the United States.
In June, 2010 Westscape, in collaboration with Arbuckle Native Seedsters of Billings, MT
harvested large quantities of Nutall’s alkaligrass (a salt tolerant native grass species) from
the highly saline shoreline of Hailstone. In November, Westscape, working with Mark
Majerus of Native Solutions and the USDA-NRCS Bridger Plant Materials replanted the
alkaligrass along with its selected halophytes and other salt tolerant species in field-scale
demonstrations for eventual reclamation of the lake bed and basin.
Water Testing Hailstone 2009
James Bauder and Russell Smith
Water Collection Hailstone 2009
Mark Majerus with Arbuckle Native Seedster
Nutall's Alkaligrass on site.
Robert Dunn and Mark Majerus
Alkali Saltgrass seed harvest.
Hailstone Fall Seeding Plots 2010
"Cultivating Conservation with the Bridger Plant Materials Center" is an informational
DVD filmed in cooperation with Montana State University and discusses the challenges
facing conservation in Montana. The film contains beautiful footage of Montana and
includes an interview with Westscaepe Nursery. Copies of the film can be requested
from NRCS at the following link:
Hellroaring Creek & The Nature Conservancy
Hell Roaring Creek, Centennial Valley
Native Willow Stands
In 2009, Westscape Nursery began working with the Montana Chapter of the Nature
Conservancy in efforts to restore riparian habitat along Hell Roaring Creek in the striking
Centennial Valley of SW Montana. The Centennial Mountains form a rugged, high
mountain border between Montana and Idaho. The expansive valley below is one of the
most pristine and remote areas of Montana and is home to grizzly bear, wolves, elk, moose,
and more than 260 species of birds. Hell Roaring Creek is one of the last places on earth
where Arctic grayling trout survive. Years of intensive cattle grazing along the creek have
degraded riparian shrub habitat (principally willows) which is critical for healthy stream flow,
beaver activity, and providing suitable areas for grayling breeding. Westscape, working
with Natahn Korb of the Nature Conservancy and Scott Gillian, a Bozeman fluvial hydroligist
developed a plan for the re-establishment of native willow populations along Hell Roaring.
Since 2009, Westscape has been collecting native willow seed from the surrounding areas
and producing containerized plants for establishment in the riparian zones.
Hell Roaring Creek – 3,245 miles to the Atlantic Ocean !
USDA-Small Business Innovation Research Awards (SBIR)
Based on its initial findings from Phase I research, Westscape Nursery was awarded a
multi-year contract as part of a cooperative working agreement with the US Department
of the Interior-Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS), USGS, and Montana State University
(MSU) to evaluate and implement (through a series of demonstration plots and
research) novel strategies for the revegetation of a de-watered saline lakebed in the
Hailstone National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in Montana. The lake and surrounding areas
have been severely impacted by extreme levels of sodium and selenium accumulation.
The lake was dewatered in2011, creating a 500 acre saline playa, devoid of plant life.
Sodium and selenium concentrations have reached toxic levels and have led to mortality
in migratory waterfowl and are also responsible for the occurrence of saline dust storm
events. This playa area and contract has allowed Westscape to use Hailstone as a
proving ground for target species from this project and deployment methods. In 2011,
(after two previous seasons of small test plots) superior germplasm from the SBIR
project were seeded in large-scale test plots on a playa area of exceedingly high sodium
levels. These seedings were combined with novel methods and combinations of soil
manipulation and organic matter additions. One species in particular, Suaeda
calceoliformis has emerged as a standout species in both the Hailstone field trial and in
greenhouse evaluation studies for the major objectives of the SBIR project. This is an
advanced generation line selected for extreme salt tolerance, evapotranspiration
potential, biomass, upright growth habit, and potential selenium detoxification. In 2012,
field results showed that S. calceoliformis had completely established across the test
plot areas, producing substantial biomass and ground cover on an area previously
believed to be uninhabitable for plant life. This selection is the process of registration
with AOSCA; a national certification program for the development of native wild
germplasm for restoration, revegetation, and stabilization of disturbed natural
communities and is a precursor to further IP status. USFWS provided funding for a
graduate student at MSU to work with Westscape at Hailstone NWR. That work and
thesis were completed in 2012 and incorporates data and findings from this SBIR
project. Data from this project are currently being shared with MSU, USFWS, and USDA-
NRCS scientists. Westcape makes formal annual reports and recommendations to
USFWS which include data from this SBIR and recommendations on larger-scale
applications for reclamation of the impacted basin to reduce dust pollution and enhance
wildlife habitat using that knowledge. Since the inception of this project, data has been
presented at both the sixth (St. Louis) and eighth (Portland) International Conference of
Phytotechnology (ICP). In 2012, we will present data at the tenth ICP (Syracuse) or
elsewhere. Scientist and engineers from 30 countries participate in ICP. We have
presented two invited talks to the Montana Native Plant Society. In 2012 Westscape
hosted a field day presentation at Hailstone NWR for USFWS scientists and
Lysimeters used to measure salt
uptake and water use by research
halophytes (Suaeda caleoliformis).
Fall seeded Suaeda caleoliformis at
Hailstone NWR 2011. Photo Sept
Salt playa following lake dewatering in
Making furrows on shoreline fall 2011.
Adding dry mulch, compost and seed
from a blower truck fall 2011.
Valley of the Flowers Landscaping.
Suaeda caleoliformis with seed fall 2012.
Seeded Puccinella establishment fall