A project of the Clark Fork Coalition, the Coalition and its partners purchased Dry Cottonwood Creek Ranch in 2005 to establish a learning site in one of the most important restoration areas of the watershed. Our ranch manager is not only trying to turn a profit in a hardscrabble industry, but are also looking to implement projects that increase irrigation efficiency, improve range and riparian health, and reduce energy costs and water use.
With Superfund cleanup at Dry Cottonwood Creek Ranch finished, we have fulfilled the promise behind its purchase in 2005 – namely serving as Superfund “guinea pig” and pioneering a successful project to remove remnant mining contamination on a working ranch in the Upper Clark Fork. In the process, we also demystified cleanup for other landowners next in line for cleanup, modernized irrigation and ranching infrastructure, restored and protected 4.5 miles of river, freed up 16 cfs of water to leave in the Clark Fork as in stream flow, connected 2 creeks to the mainstem river, created new wetlands, and improved river bottom and uplands habitats for diverse fish and wildlife species. Thanks to financial support from the Natural Resource Damage Program, we also purchased the adjacent Deer Lodge River Ranch and united the two ranches through easements that protect conservation investments made in the river bottom and the uplands, and that provide permanent public access for the recreating public.
The project has been a huge success on all fronts, including helping CFC better understand agriculture’s essential role in helping the Upper Clark Fork become clean, healthy, and whole.
Our mission at Dry Cottonwood Creek Ranch is now accomplished. It’s time to sell and return the proceeds to the Natural Resource Damage Program’s restoration fund.