By Robert Lucke
With the summer camping season rapidly approaching, take some time to learn about preventing recreational impacts to wetlands.
We all play an important role in protecting wetlands across Montana and many times we don't even know that we are on them. For instance in Beaver Creek Park, from Beaver Creek Reservoir all the way to Rotary Hill, much of that area of the park is wetlands. And yet moisture conditions vary so much from season to season and year to year that at times some of the wetlands area appears to be completely dry.
Many of this areas wetlands are some of the most fragile of all the land and are home to as many diverse creatures as red fox and snapping turtles. In Montana nearly 40 percent of endangered species are found in or are dependent upon wetlands. Unfortunately, recreationalists spend lots of time in and around wetlands as well.
Bird watching, photography, fishing, hunting, hiking, camping, horseback riding, and the list goes on and on. They are all things that are traditionally done on or around wetlands.
Montana Watercourse at MSU-Bozeman has produced a pamphlet telling what to do to keep Montana wetlands in a more pristine condition and yet be able to pursue recreational activities.
The guidelines are simple, and yet represent an effective way to keep wetlands unharmed.
Honor all trail signs or closures. Keep your tracks on the trail. Resist the urge to create a new trail or to cut a switchback. Avoid the spread of noxious weeds. Use weed-seed free feed and wash vehicles. Plan ahead. Consider the timing of the trip. If it is wet, don't go. Learn how to read the terrain to avoid low spots and watercourses.
The pamphlet goes on to tell how to identify what is a wetland, whatever conditions may be prevalent.
Water is often on or near the surface all or part of the year. Soil is poorly drained and may look gray. Water-tolerant plants, such as cottonwoods, willows and cattails, may be present.
If you have any questions, contact the Hill County Health Department at 265-5481 or visit with Watercourse directly in Bozeman at (406) 994-6671.