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WSU/Pend Oreille Extension introduced the Sense of Place series in 1999, with a focus on place-based stewardship education. Since 2001, a partnership with the Kalispel Tribe of Indians Natural Resources Department (KNRD) has supported this newsletter and allowed us to expand class offerings through EPA funding. Further staff support comes through Renewable Resources Extension Act (RREA). Many thanks to our partners and to you, our readers, for your continued enthusiasm for "digging" into the natural history and culture of this part of the world.

Wetland Restoration in the Calispell-Cusick Valley, Phase 2


by Tina Blewett, Biologist, and Chris Bonsignore, Manager of Conservation Programs, Ducks Unlimited

In the previous issue of Diggings, we introduced to you a Comprehensive Planning Guide for Wetland Restoration in the Calispell-Cusick Valley. In 2010, Ducks Unlimited (DU) was contracted by the Kalispel Tribe using a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to identify and prioritize potential areas for wetland restoration in the Valley. The guide, a 55-page document available upon request, describes 37 potential sites, and contains a list of 24 programs that can provide landowners with financial incentives for habitat projects. Each of the 37 sites includes multiple landowners, and combined they cover 12,000 acres of the Valley. In 2011 we will complete feasibility evaluations for restoration projects at some of these sites. These evaluations will only take place where landowners are voluntarily interested in habitat improvement projects on their lands. This effort is an ongoing collaboration of numerous local entities and several private landowners, with the goal of completing on-the-ground wetland habitat enhancement, restoration or protection in order to benefit waterfowl and other wetland dependent species.

We are contacting landowners in high priority sites in the Valley in order to set up informational meetings to discuss wetland restoration and funding options. One financial option for landowners is a conservation easement, which DU can purchase and hold. As an example, in the portion of their property under the easement, a landowner could sell to DU the development and haying rights, but maintain their right to graze cattle. We will be holding several field trips in the spring and summer for local landowners to view completed restoration sites in the Valley, and learn more about their options. The first one will be in early April. Look in the "Sense of Place Classes" schedule online in March, or contact us for details.

We will also conduct a more detailed evaluation on several of the highest priority sites. We are currently working at Calispell Lake with numerous landowners, the PUD, and the Tribe to collect information and develop conceptual plans for restoration work. We have identified a second site on Tribal lands where we will be starting data collection soon. But we are still seeking other landowners who are willing to investigate a potential project on their property. The site-specific evaluations entail collecting and analyzing data that will guide where and how restoration may occur at a site. Next, we develop restoration scenarios which take into account which landowners are interested in participating in a project and which are not. Reports and maps produced using this information will be discussed with the participating landowners. No projects will be carried out without full agreement from each potentially affected landowner within a project site.

The work at Calispell Lake includes developing a plan to determine the best treatments for improving the health of the ecosystem. Calispell Lake is the largest and most important marsh system in the Valley. However, over the last few decades, dense vegetation has been encroaching into the lake and surrounding habitats, resulting in reduced habitat quality for waterfowl, shorebirds, wading birds, native fish, and other wildlife species. The completed plan will be presented to the Calispell Lake stakeholder group for review and consideration. If there is consensus among the stakeholders that the conceptual plan is acceptable, funding and implementation of the restoration will be pursued.

In 2012 we plan to begin habitat restoration at several of the sites. Our mission is to provide habitat for wildlife, but we cannot accomplish this goal without successful partnerships with private landowners. Wetland restoration projects can provide many benefits to landowners, including but not limited to financial incentives. Other benefits include increasing the productivity of pasture and croplands, creating new bird watching or hunting areas, improving the aesthetics of an area, flood control, protection from erosion, ground water recharge, and filtration of sediment and pollutants. Interested landowners may contact us at anytime to set up an informational meeting to learn more.


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