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Riparian areas and wetlands occupy less than 4% of Montana’s land surface, yet they support more than 80% of Montana's bird species. Through a partnership with Bitterroot Audubon, the MPG Ranch recently constructed four, quarter-acre exclosures on the floodplain of the Bitterroot River. The purpose of these exclosures is to prevent ungulates like deer, elk, and moose from browsing the riparian vegetation that provides essential bird habitat. Heavy browsing in the past has limited the establishment and regeneration of important floodplain species such as cottonwood, aspen, and willow. MPG Ranch staff and Bitterroot Audubon volunteers will monitor the birds and vegetation within and around the exclosures. The exclosures will also serve as a demonstration to other landowners interested in protecting riparian vegetation on their own property.

The MPG Ranch hosted a field trip for Bitterroot Audubon and interested landowners on Saturday, October 8. The twelve participants viewed the exclosures, discussed the importance of riparian vegetation to birds and other wildlife, and observed more than 25 bird species. Several of these species, like the ruby-crowned kinglet and the white-crowned sparrow, do not breed on the floodplain but are currently using it as migratory stop-over habitat.

About the Author

Kate Stone

Kate graduated from Middlebury College with a B.A. in Environmental Studies and Conservation Biology in 2000. She pursued a M.S. in Forestry at the University of Montana where her thesis focused on the habitat associations of snowshoe hares on U.S. National Forest land in Western Montana. After completing her M.S. degree in 2003, Kate alternated between various field biology jobs in the summer and writing for the U.S. Forest Service in the winter. Her fieldwork included projects on small mammal response to weed invasions, the response of bird communities to bark beetle outbreaks and targeted surveys for species of concern like the black-backed woodpecker and the Northern goshawk. Writing topics ranged from the ecology and management of western larch to the impacts of fuels reduction on riparian areas.

Kate coordinates bird-related research at the MPG Ranch. She is involved in both original research and facilitating the use of the Ranch as a study site for outside researchers. Additionally, Kate is the field trip coordinator and website manager for the Bitterroot Audubon Society. She also enjoys gardening and biking in her spare time.