The Ruby Watershed Council saw the culmination of their collaborative efforts Friday evening at the 3 Forks Cow Camp on the Upper Ruby River.
The group undertook a project to relocate the 3 Forks Corral to reduce sediment in the rivers headwaters.
Ruby Watershed Coordinator Rebecca Mayfield Ramsey was excited to see the finished product of a group project made possible by the Ruby Stock Growers Association, Forest Service, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, the Department of Environmental Quality, the Ruby Conservation District and the Ruby Watershed Council.
“That’s really what we strive to do is bring partners together and really meld the stakeholders working for the same resources and the same kinds of goals and the shared value, shared resource idea,” Ramsey said.
The project involved the installation of a hardened crossing over Tributary Creek using cobblestone and road mix. The cobblestone layer facilitates drainage while the layer of road mix above will protect the livestock from injuring their feet.
Clear water trickled through the project site where more than 1,000 cattle crossed just two days before. Members of the council passed around photographs of the site before the crossing was installed – a mudhole draining hopeless down into the East Fork of the Ruby River.
In addition to the hardened crossing, the 3 Forks Corral was relocated less than a mile upstream. Previously, livestock had to cross all three forks of the river to get to the old sorting corrals. With more than 3,200 pairs of cattle coming through the facility annually, the impact on the water was substantial.
Twin Bridges rancher Rick Sandru explains how the project benefits the public.
“By changing the corral location, most years the cows wont have to cross the river,” Sandru said.
Before leaving the Alder Fire Hall to go upriver the council took a detour to look at a soil health project near Laurin. The project involved a full season crop of oats, radish, turnips, millett, sunflower lentils and peas on a 1,100 acre property. Natural Resources Conservation Service soil conservationist Dan Durham explained the project.
“The idea is to put a diversity of species into the ground so it will feed soil biology and it will stimulate the nutrient cycle to process material faster and eventually build up the organic matter in the soil,” Durham said.
NRCS took soil samples before the crop was planted to study the effects of different treatments throughout the five-year project. The project was made possible by Martha Woodson and the Ruby Habitat Foundation to keep the property in tact and provide opportunities for research projects.
Durham said only half the crop will be harvested while the other half will be left to feed the soil.
“We don’t want to take everything because all that material will go back into the ground and it will be available as nutrients down the road to feed those microbes that were trying to build up,” Durham said.