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Miles City Field Office
Release Date: 05/16/12
Contacts: Mark E. Jacobsen    
  (406) 233-2831    

BLM Miles City FO completes the first spring plantings for 2012

MILES CITY, Mont. --- The BLM Miles City Field Office has completed the first of  several Custer and Prairie county  planting projects to improve wildlife habitat and increase streamside resistance to high water erosion.

BLM staff, personnel from the National Wild Turkey Federation and Montana Conservation Corps planted approximately 2,150 rooted seedlings and 7,500 willow cuttings along the banks of Cedar Creek in Prairie County and Pumpkin and Harris Creeks in Custer County. 

“The Miles City Field Office staff has done an outstanding job working with our partners, the local Conservation District, National Wild Turkey Federation, Montana Conservation Corps and area landowners on significant habitat restoration work this year,” said BLM Field Manager Debbie Morford.  “Many projects are a continuation of efforts started in past years and our growing list of partners has allowed us to be more proactive and cover several areas throughout the field office.” 

Over 7,000 willow cuttings and 1,700 shrub seedlings were planted along two and a half stream-miles of Pumpkin Creek and its tributary Johnson Creek, reported BLM Fisheries Biologist Jake Chaffin.  An increase over the approximately 2,000 willow cuttings that were planted along a one-mile stretch in 2010, he said. 

“In 2013, the BLM plans to double this year’s effort and plant the remaining four miles of Pumpkin Creek and finish one mile of Johnson Creek,” said Chaffin. “It may take several years to fully see the impact, but we expect to have a diverse and naturally reproducing riparian shrub community.”

“This will help stabilize stream banks, increase habitat for the 14-plus fish species that occur in the creek. It will also provide much-needed habitat for songbirds, game birds like pheasant and sharptail grouse, small mammals and deer,” said Chaffin. “The BLM hopes this will increase hunting and wildlife viewing opportunities on the Pumpkin Creek Ranch and Recreation Area.” 

Elsewhere in Custer County, long-time BLM partner and collaborator the National Wild Turkey Federation worked a four and a half mile section of Harris Creek. Collin Smith, a NWTF regional wildlife biologist from Rapid City provided on-site project management and field work. The NWTF continues to contribute resources towards local agency coordination, contract management and project oversight to a variety of BLM habitat work.

“The goal of the Harris Creek project is to improve riparian and hydrologic functionality, water quality and wildlife habitat,” said BLM Soil Scientist Mel Schroeder. “The project takes place within a mixed land-ownership area. With the National Wild Turkey Federation we have been able to work toward our goals on a landscape level, rather than just focusing within jurisdictional boundaries.” 

According to Carmen Drieling, rangeland management specialist and project lead for the Prairie County Cedar Creek planting, 450 seedlings were planted on a half-mile stretch north of Terry. Dogwood, sandbar willow and buffalo berry were grouped in clusters, surrounded by grazing barriers.

“It may take several years to fully see the impact of improving the creek, however making changes will ensure the stream is working towards an improving riparian functionality,” said Drieling.

“We should see a positive response with the plantings since the creek has water most of the year and is fed by a couple of springs,” she said. “In the future, the plan is to plant native cottonwood either with cuttings or rooted stock.”

Rooted seedlings were donated by the Custer County Conservation District and purchased from Lincoln Oaks Nursery out of Bismarck. Wire “hog panels,” steel posts and hand tools were bought locally. 

A variety of methods were used to boost plant survival rates. Bundles of willow cuttings were pond-soaked days in advance. Potting soil, shredded bark and a cornstarch-based water-retaining soil supplement were applied to assist over the dry months. Weed-barrier mats to reduce competition and hog-panel grazing exclosures were also incorporated. In some cases, staff employed experimental photo-degradable “grow tubes” to provide a mini-thermal environment for seedlings. 

Cuttings were planted along the creeks using water-jet “stingers,” a contraption that pumps creek water through a high pressure spigot. The hose-fed pipe bored holes a yard deep; just big enough to insert a willow cutting. A crew of three manned the stingers; one person running holes into the muddy bank while the others planted and clipped. 

“The willows are cut off about a foot above-ground,” said Chaffin.  “The goal is that the willow gets below stream-water level so that the cutting will stay saturated and most of the growth will go to establishing a root system.”

As with past projects, volunteers from the Montana Conservation Corps played a significant role in the project. MCC workers pushed the projects briskly along, freeing BLM field technicians to attend to oversight, materials transport and coordination.

MCC personnel hailed from a diversity of national locations; most were college students in their mid-twenties. So far this year, MCC volunteers have worked on BLM projects in Missoula, Dillon, Billings and Pompeys Pillar in addition to the Miles City Field Office projects.

MCC field crews live and work together in crews of six to eight members, often camping on location until projects are completed. The Corps is a nonprofit organization with the mission to inspire young people through hands-on conservation service to be leaders, stewards of the land and engaged citizens who improve their communities. 

“The efforts by all involved are an outstanding example of how coordination and collaboration really can make a difference in getting work done on the ground,” said newly-appointed District Manager Diane Friez.   “Over time, we should see increases in riparian functionality as well as increased habitat as a result of these projects.  Many thanks to the BLM staff involved, as well as the NWTF and MCC for their participation.” 

For the latest BLM news and updates visit us on the web at: More photos of these planting projects are available at: Information on the Montana Conservation Corps can be found at:

The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land, the most of any Federal agency. This land, known as the National System of Public Lands, is primarily located in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. The BLM's mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of America’s public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations. In Fiscal Year 2015, the BLM generated $4.1 billion in receipts from activities occurring on public lands.

Miles City Field Office   111 Garyownen Road      Miles City, Montana 59301  

Last updated: 06-28-2012