As reporter Vince Devlin points out in this Missoulian (Mont.) story, when the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes received $18 million a few years back in a settlement in an environmental case, they could have divvied up the money among all sorts of projects that badly needed doing.
Instead, they thought big. Really big. The tribes set about restoring 25 miles of the Jocko River that flows through their Flathead Indian Reservation in western Montana reservation, as well as the entire Jocko watershed.
Time – and the influence of man – had taken a terrible toll on the Jocko. Because its meandering course threatened a trout hatchery run by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, the river was straightened, looking more like a big ditch. And three dams were built on Montana’s Clark Fork River, meaning bull trout couldn’t migrate 174 miles from Idaho’s Lake Pend Oreille and eventually wind up in the Jocko.
As Devlin writes, the tribes’ Jocko River Master Plan aims to change that:
It’s a massive project covering the entire Jocko watershed, years in the works, with years left to go.
In some places, it’s as simple as removing the cattle that defecated in the river’s tributaries and grazed their banks down to dirt.
In others, entire homes, barns and other outbuildings are disappearing from the Jocko floodplain, torn down one by one as the tribes begin restoring land near the river to its natural habitat.
“We’re fortunate to be in the backbone of the world, where water begins,” White says. “There are so many others down the system, especially by the time you get to the Columbia River, where you encounter dam after dam, and they have no choice but to grow and throw.”
Tags: buffalo post, bull trout, Clark Fork River, Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, dams, environment, Flathead Indian Reservation, Gwen Florio, Jocko River, Jocko River Master Plan, Lake Pend Oreille, Monana Fish Wildlife and Parks, Native American news