Best wishes for the Rattlesnake Watershed and Beyond

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and best wishes for the coming year!

Panorama view across the Rattlesnake Valley

Panorama view across the Rattlesnake Valley toward Mount Jumbo, seen from the North Hills. Photo by Eric Edlund, Dec.22, 2013.

It’s been another good year for the RCWG. This fall we received funding from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service via the Western Native Trout Initiative to work with the Lolo National Forest to improve streambank and riparian habitat in Rattlesnake Creek near the “horse bridge”.  Some large boulders have already been delivered, and work should commence around early March 2014.

Earlier in the year we also completed restoration work in Bugbee Park, and we hosted several successful events as part of the  Bear Aware Apple Share project, including the inaugural Tour da Bear and the second annual Fall Festival at Ten Spoon Winery. In December we wrapped up the funded portion of the project (thanks to the City of Missoula’s Neighborhood Large Grant program), but we’re planning further events for 2014 and of course we’ll continue to work with partners like Great Bear Foundation and missoulabears.org to help keep the Rattlesnake Valley safe for humans and bears in the future.

2014 will bring some changes to the RCWG.  Jill Alban will be stepping down from her position as President, and later this spring we’ll lose Greg Peters, our current Vice President.  Starting in January, Dave Fortner and Eric Edlund will serve as co-Chairs of the Advisory Board.  We’re looking for new Board members–if you’re interested please contact us and/or attend our mid-January board meeting (details will be posted on this web page).

The work of the Rattlesnake Creek Watershed Group depends on volunteers and fundraising from the community; whether you’d like to volunteer, attend a meeting, make a tax-deductible donation, enlist our help with a watershed project, or just want more information, please contact us by email or phone.  Thanks!

Fall Festival 2013

This Sunday!

Poster for Fall Festival

Last year’s “first annual” Fall Festival was great; this year’s will be even better!  RCWG is co-hosting the event with the Big Sky Beekeepers at Ten Spoon Winery this Sunday.

It’s not too late to enter the apple (or pear) recipe contest–just make sure to deliver your dish to the judges before 1:00 p.m. We’ll be pressing and sampling cider from 100 lbs. or so of apples picked by volunteers throughout the Rattlesnake Valley; you can also bring your own apples and use the cider press to take home cider for yourself (bring your own containers please). There’ll be a raffle with great prizes, local food and beverage vendors, and live music too.

Fall Festival, Bee Fest, or “Bear Aware Apple Share”–there’ll be something for everyone from noon to 4:00 p.m. this Sunday, October 20th at Ten Spoon Winery in the Rattlesnake Valley.  Hope to see you there.

Please don’t feed the bears

There’s a summary of the March 2013 meeting on “Bears in the Rattlesnake” posted under the Bear Aware Apple Share heading on our website. Please stay tuned for events this spring, summer and fall, including the Great Bear Foundation’s annual “bear honoring” the weekend of May 3-5, a “bear aware” event planned by Chuck Bartlebaugh, and a Rattlesnake-area tour of potential bear attractants (trash, chicken coops, etc.)  and what we can do to make them less attractive.

Speaking of which….

OtherCoast_20130406_wcopy

Please don’t let this happen to you, or to any bears in your neighborhood. As Chuck Jonkel reported at last month’s meeting, during 2012 a total of 67 “notices of violation” were issued in our region; most of those were in the Rattlesnake Valley, and enforcement will be a priority again this year.

(Please follow this link for a larger version of the comic, or this link for the artist’s webpage).

Briefly waking up from our winter hibernation

It’s been a couple months since our successful First Annual Bear Aware Apple Share Festival, held at Ten Spoon Winery on Sunday, October 28th.  About 150 people attended, ate, drank, and were generally merry.  We tasted a number of Recipe Contest entries, and we pressed and sampled locally-sourced apple and pear cider, much of which was delicious! Thanks to the Great Bear Foundation and to the Missoula Urban Demonstration Project who provided apple presses for use on site.

Here’s a link to a Missoulian article with followup on the Festival and Chuck Jonkel’s 2012 Bear Summary.

Rattlesnake bears are less active in the winter, but they’re still right here in the valley and they can wake up and roam around anytime during the winter. Bear activity reports should be filed with Missoula Bears; check out their early 2013 reports here. Make sure to continue to store your trash and other attractants in bearproof locations.

RCWG will be resuming our outreach and educational efforts later this year, so please check back for more information. Enjoy the winter!

This Sunday: the First Annual Bear Aware Apple Share Festival!

This Sunday, October 28th, 2012, from noon till 4 p.m., RCWG is hosting our end-of-apple-season  party: the Bear Aware Apple Share Festival at Ten Spoon Winery!  Admission is free!  We’ll have an apple recipe contest, cider pressing, snacks, Ten Spoon wine available for purchase, and more.  Read more about it here.

Bear Aware Apple Share progress report

Thanks to helpful direction from the Great Bear Foundation, we’ve been able to mobilize several groups of volunteers for some successful apple gleaning.  Rattlesnake residents have contacted GBF to request assistance with their trees, and to contribute apples to RCWG for pressing at our October 28th end-of-season celebration .

Last Sunday (Sept. 30th) nine UM and Missoula College students and staff focused on three trees in the upper Rattlesnake, with excellent results, and with a disappointed audience at one site, above. (We resisted her charms because we’re trying to help the Rattlesnake’s wild residents stay wild!)

We harvested about 200 pounds of apples, most of them suitable for eating or pressing into cider.  Sub-standard apples will be used for animal feed.  We’ll be pressing cider at our Oct. 28th event.

Maybe we’ll see you there!

We can still put you to work as a volunteer if you’re interested, and if you need help with your apples, please contact us!

More Volunteers Needed

This month RCWG is working on two tasks that need volunteers.

  1. We’re placing doorhangers and talking with neighbors in hotspot areas of the Rattlesnake.  We’re distributing information from MT FWP and working with Erin Edge, bear expert and coordinator of the Missoula Bears website.  To help out on this effort, come to Break Espresso on Wednesday, Sept. 12th, 6:30 pm. More info, 542-0539, x206, or email us (even if you can’t make it on Wednesday, contact us!). Thanks!
  2. We’re helping out the Great Bear Foundation with their apple gleaning efforts.  Please fill out our contact form and let us know if you want to help pick and gather apples, or if you have trees that need picking.  We’ll get back to you.

Thanks!

Ditch Corps Volunteers – Please Sign Up

Under the heading of “better late than never”, here’s a message from Ellie Long encouraging folks to sign up to help protect fish in Rattlesnake Creek:

Thanks for attending the “Explore Your Backyard Creek” event earlier this July. The Rattlesnake Creek Watershed Group is excited to offer you an opportunity to volunteer and give back to Rattlesnake Creek by cleaning fish screens on irrigation ditches on the creek. Click the link to sign up for a cleanup time slot this summer and fall. It’s fast, easy and means a lot to native fish in the Rattlesnake!

To view the sign up, go to:
www.SignUpGenius.com/go/4090F48A8A928A46-ditch/4271920

Thanks!

Join the RCWG to Explore Your Backyard Creek July 9th 6-7 pm

Image

The RCWG is hosting an ‘Explore Your Backyard Creek’ event on Monday, July 9, 2012 from 6:00-7:00pm in the Rattlesnake Recreation Area. Participants should meet at the end of Duncan Drive next to the walking trail at 6:00pm.

Join natural resource experts to explore one of Missoula’s most beloved creeks, and learn more about native fish and wildlife species and the historical land use of Rattlesnake Creek.  Plus, participants can join in ongoing efforts to protect clean water and wildlife habitat in the region.  The event will include informal stations that will explore these topics and provide more information on how community members can get involved in stewardship efforts.

This event is free, family friendly and open to the public. Free snacks and refreshments will be provided. For more information about this event please call 406.524.0539. Hope to see you there!

Map to Explore Your Backyard Creek

View Map

Something to do with noxious weeds

Bouquet of noxious weed flowers

Bouquet of flowering noxious weeds, harvested in early June along the open space trail below the Mount Jumbo saddle trailhead. Photograph by Eric Edlund.

It’s getting to be that time of year, and I’ll bet you haven’t bought a Father’s Day present yet!  How about a bouquet of flowers?  “No way!” you’re saying, “that sounds a little too ‘girly’ for my Dad”.  Well alright then, how about giving him a bouquet of noxious weeds?

Noxious weeds have many advantages over traditional flowers.  They’re easy to find, free, and if you pick ‘em, you’re helping our natural environment!  (That last one is especially true if you pull them out by the roots.  Read on….)

At this time of year, on public lands all around the Rattlesnake Valley, there are some very pretty flowers that also just happen to be classified as noxious weeds.  The four species shown in this bouquet (houndstongue, Dalmatian toadflax, leafy spurge, and hoary cress or whitetop) were all gathered in the open space below the Mount Jumbo Saddle trailhead.

Hand-pulling can be a useful tool for weed control, and when the ground is wet it’s not that hard to get most or even all of the root.  It’s probably best to wear gloves, because some of these plants contain skin-irritating chemicals.

Dalmatian Toadflax is a long-distance colonist.  If you find a small patch of toadflax, you can prevent it from spreading by hand-pulling all the plants.  (For this and any of the weeds listed here, don’t feel bad if you don’t get the entire root–the sad truth is that for most weed species it will take several years to eradicate a patch).

Leafy spurge and whitetop (a.k.a. hoary cress) are harder to contain with hand-pulling–they’re really abundant. You’ll almost never get the entire root of a spurge, and in fact, breaking the plant away is likely to stimulate vegetative root growth and help spread the plant.  Even young plants have breakable nodes on their roots that will probably stay behind when you pull the root.  Still, like toadflax, if I find one or a few small plants far from any heavily-infested area, and the ground is wet, I’ll go ahead and pull them.

Houndstongue, on the other hand, is potentially-easy to control.  It’s a biennial with one main taproot.  It’s worth pulling, especially when the ground is wet.  Any one plant typically lives only two (maybe three) years–so even if you don’t get the root, if you remove the flowers, the plant is living on borrowed time.  But watch out–houndstongues will often sprout a second or third batch of flowers in a single season, and if you don’t get their root, they’ll be back to try again for at least one more year.  Watch out for last year’s dead plants too–they may be covered with sticky seeds that are best removed from your pets and clothing using a fine-toothed comb.

Fuzzytongue Penstemon and bumblebee

Bumblebee visiting Fuzzy-tongued Penstemon (Penstemon eriantherus), a native wildflower of western Montana. Photograph June 2012 by Eric Edlund.

These weeds are pretty distinctive, so you don’t need to worry too much about taking out innocent native bystanders.  But if you have any doubts, check some online resources for identification guides.  Missoula County’s weed identification page is a good place to start.  Houndstongue looks a little bit like our native bluebells and penstemons (see image at right–that’s a native plant!); spurge and toadflax plants look a little bit like a weedy native species called gromwell or stoneseed.  I don’t think you could confuse whitetop with any desirable native plant, but while you’re checking it out, keep an eye out for yarrow growing alongside the trails.  It has small white flowers and fuzzy basal leaves (these leaves are nothing like whitetop leaves).  Yarrow is a widely used herb in traditional medicines.

Enjoy Missoula’s open space, and thanks for helping to take care of the Rattlesnake Watershed.  If you enjoyed this post, check us out on Facebook.  The RCWG works on a variety of watershed protection issues, including water quality, invasive species, black bears and fruit trees.

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