Volunteers plant willows in effort to restore riverbanks on upper Madison

Madison River Foundation volunteers work to plant willow samplings along the Madison River south of Cameron, near McAtee bridge. Photo by Greg Lemon

Bureau of Land Management outdoor recreation planner Chris McGrath packs a bundle of willow saplings to a group of Madison River Foundation volunteers on Thursday. The volunteers and BLM employees were working together to plant more than 600 saplings along the Madison RIver. Photo by Greg Lemon

WALL CREEK – More than 20 Madison River Foundation volunteers and a handful of Bureau of Land Management employees converged on the McAtee Bridge Fishing Access Site to plant 600 willow samplings along the banks of the Madison River.

The project was a joint effort between the BLM and the Madison River Foundation and was done to provide bank stabilization and biological diversity along the west side of the Madison River between McAtee Bridge and the Ruby River Campground.

Volunteers planted the sand bar willow samplings in the wet ground near the river’s edge, digging in the rocky, wet soil with digging bars and shovels. The land had been used for livestock grazing for more than 100 years, but had recently been removed from the BLM’s grazing program because of range health.

Sand bar willows are native to the Madison Valley and commonly seen along the river, BLM range specialist Dave Early.

Additionally, sand bar willows are less palatable to animals and so tend to survive better, he said. Once the willows are established, other plants will be more likely to move in.

“They’re one of the species that help hold the riverbank together to allow other deep-rooted species to establish.

The agency and the Madison River Foundation will monitor the success of the willows throughout the summer.

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