Why are Native Plants Important to Riparian Areas? - Rita Braun
This is Why... Johanna Bangeman
Voices of Our Volunteers - Montana Conservation Corps

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Why Are Native Plants Important to Riparian Areas?
By Rita Braun, Nursery Staff, Center for Native Plants
Waterfront landscapes and gardens along shorelines are located in wetland or riparian areas. The plants in these landscapes play special roles, ones that native plants fulfill best. But first, what is a native plant?

Over a period of thousands and thousands of years, plants native to the Flathead Valley evolved to where they now thrive in this area’s natural ecosystem—from the shoreline to mountain top and all the varying climate, soils, and fauna (insects, reptiles, birds, and wildlife) in betw
een. Once established, native plants typically require less water to survive, have natural defenses against insects and disease, and create a sense of place where people associate certain plants with Montana, such as the Ponderosa Pine and Serviceberry.

Native plants are also a significant food source for fauna year-round in the form of leaves, seeds, buds, berries, and flowers. Native plant canopies provide shade for all fauna, and many types of birds and wildlife nest and breed in thickets of native shrubs. During winter, birds and wildlife seek native plants for wind break and thermal cover.

While only two percent of Montana’s landscape is riparian, it supports an incredibly diverse amount vegetation. Because of this, a tremendous amount of Montana’s birds and wildlife migrate through riparian areas. According to the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), close to 60 percent of Montana’s threatened and endangered species rely on riparian areas for survival!

Through their robust root systems that help keep soil in place, native plants are also a cost effective way to prevent shoreline erosion—more so than a sea wall or riprap that would eventually require upkeep or replacement. Those root systems also help filter sediment and excess nutrients from lawns so they don’t enter the water, helping to keep it clean!

So as you just learned, native plants are really hard workers. And they are beautiful, too. Many produce spring flowers, summer berries, graceful movement (grasses and sedges) and intense fall color.

Adding up all these ways native plants are important to riparian areas may boost your property’s value.  
Research has shown that people are willing to spend at least an additional six percent for property with healthy waterfront landscapes and gardens along shorelines!

To learn more about native plants and which ones will work best in your waterfront gardens, contact the Flathead Lakers or visit a nursery that sells native plants.
Center for Native Plants is Flathead Valley’s only retail native plant nursery. For information about the nursery, visit
This is Why...

My family’s love for Flathead Lake began when our Grandfather’s brothers settled in the Flathead in the early days. Our Great Grandmother also came to Montana early (by covered wagon), so roots on our mother’s side started then. Flathead Lake was enjoyed by both our father and mother, with cousins and friends, before they even met. On a visit in 1959, our parents bought a place in Lakeside right on Lakeside Boulevard, which was a dirt road that had been the main road along the lake before Highway 93. I started school in the three-room Lakeside grade school that fall.

One of the things our father felt was very important was to protect the lake, and my mother worked to preserve Lakeside’s beauty and quiet neighborhoods.  We have seen changes to the lake and Flathead Valley.
We attended a Flathead Lakers Landscaping for Clean Water Workshop and visited the lakeshore buffer demonstration project in Lake County, where an old seawall had been removed and a native plant buffer was created to help keep the lake water pure. Later, we heard about an opportunity to work with the Lakers, and we were hoping that it would provide an answer to our concerns about protecting the lake. As we learned more about how native plants can act as filters to protect the lake, we wanted to use that idea on our own property to improve how runoff can be managed more effectively, which not only helps protect the lake but beautifies our property.
Through this project, we have begun to look at our property in new ways. As the native plants grow, we see ourselves nurturing them, and in turn that nurtures our property and benefits Flathead Lake. We invite other lakeshore landowners to come see the buffer project designed and installed by Andrew Beltz and Reforestation, with the help of the great crew from the Montana Conservation Corps, and to consider what can be done on your property to contribute to the health of the lake as well.
Over the years, summer at the lake always meant hours of fun in the clear water. We grew up enjoying it and then when we had children, we brought them here. This is where both our parents lived out the end of their lives and they loved having their grandchildren and neighbor children come to visit. Now great-grandchildren come for “Grandma Camp” and this is where everyone still loves to be.  This is why we planted a buffer garden on our property, which will help keep Flathead Lake clean so it can continue to provide joy for many generations to come.

… my sister and I got involved with the Flathead Lakers and planted a riparian buffer garden.

                                                                                                                                                                                  -Johanna Bangeman
Voices of Our Volunteers
Montana Conservation Corps
The Montana Conservation Corps worked on our Lakeside Buffer Garden planting on Oct. 11 with snow on the ground.
Thank you, Johanna, for the delicious, warm soup!  And thank you, Montana Conservation Corps, for all your hard work.  
The Montana Conservation Corps is a branch of the AmeriCorps program that offers environmental education and preservation jobs to teens and young adults.  They're essentially contracted crews that work on a variety of projects like trail construction or installing wildlife-friendly fencing. 

We at the River Steward Program have worked with them for the past several years.  We hadn't planned on contracting them this fall, but an opportunity arose and I applied for and recieved a grant for a week of MCC labor at my Big Sky Watershed Corps host site-the River Steward Program. Putting together the work week was truly a team effort, as we pieced together projects from each of the organizations that make up the River Steward Program.  We began with the Flathead Lakers, helping a Lakeside landowner plant a vegetated buffer strip garden and construct a small trail aimed at localizing/mitigating foot traffic.  Next, we constructed exclosures for future Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks riparian planting sites, building nearly a half mile of fence.  We finished up the week with vital maintenance on some older Natural Resource Conservation Service plantings. 

The opportunity to have the Montana Conservation Corps volunteers work on these projects was a wonderful surprise and an excellent boost for the River Steward Program in our continued efforts to increase the scale and success of riparian restoration in the Flathead Valley.  They worked hard, covered a lot of ground, and learned a little about riparian ecosystems and basic hydrology in the process.

                                                                         - Jamie Dillon, BSWC member, River Steward Program 

Join us for Science on Tap-Flathead!

The Flathead Lakers, Flathead Lake Biological Station, and Flathead Lake Brewing Company present Science on Tap-Flathead, to begin a conversation with our community, to present science in a fun and approachable way, and to communicate and share together our love and respect for this incredible place we live. 
Check out: for a schedule and archived videos of past events. 
Invasive Mussel Larvae Found in Montana Reservoir
We were dismayed to learn that invasive mussels have made it to Montana.

Invasive aquatic mussel larvae were recently discovered in water samples from Tiber Reservoir in eastern Montana. Further testing is being done by Fish, Wildlife & Parks to confirm whether they are also present in Canyon Ferry Reservoir near Helena.
We are working with our Aquatic Invasive Species partners to determine steps needed to respond to this threat. We will need your support for new legislation in the upcoming legislative session and for additional funding to prevent the spread of these invaders to Flathead Lake.
Please continue to help spread the word about how critical it is to thoroughly clean, drain, and dry your boat every time you take it out of the water.  Help us keep Flathead Lake mussel-free!

The Flathead Lakers have a wonderful community of volunteers.  Get involved and volunteer with us!  For more information on projects, check out our volunteer page or contact Hilary Devlin at or 883-1341.
Copyright ©2016 Flathead Lakers, All rights reserved.

Thank you for your support for the Flathead Lakers and our work to protect Flathead Lake
and clean water in its watershed.

Flathead Lakers

PO Box 70, Polson, MT 59860  (406) 883-1346

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