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Water: Nonpoint Source Success Stories

Tribal Section 319 Projects: Montana

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Restoring Little Porcupine Creek:
Alternative Water Sources and Grazing Rotation Help to Restore Stream


Debi Madison
Environmental Director
Fort Peck Tribes
406-768-5155 (ext. 399)

Several years ago Little Porcupine Creek was listed as the most impaired water body on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation in northeastern Montana. The area was broken into two pastures, and the stream was being used as the only source of water. It was heavily used by cattle, which congregated along this source of water and shade.

In 1998 the Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of the Fort Peck Reservation received 319 funding to embark on a 13,000-acre restoration effort in the watershed. The tribes also collaborated with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to obtain technical assistance, as well as financial support through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).

Part of the project focused on helping vegetation to recover through increased fencing to promote better rotation of cattle grazing. Where only 2 pastures had previously been, extensive fencing broke the area into 17 pastures, allowing the tribal ranch manager to use a deferred rotation grazing system to move cattle through each pasture twice a year.

NRCS engineers helped to design new pipeline routes to provide alternative sources of drinking water for the cattle to decrease the cattle's visits (and ensuing damage) to the stream. Indian contractors then installed more than 14 miles of water pipeline, allowing access to watering tanks in each pasture.

The project was recently completed, and monitoring will provide information on its effects within a year. Studies of the vegetative growth in the project area will be conducted, as well as continued macroinvertebrate monitoring and studies of the physical characteristics of the stream itself.

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