The Montana Missouri River breaks are known for their rugged beauty, and the remarkable wildlife populations that call that region home. What they do not want to be known for is a home to invasive plants such as salt cedar. Listed as a noxious weed in Montana, this invasive tree spreads rapidly along riverbanks and lake shores replacing the iconic cottonwood and using large amounts of water during the warm summer months. Not as well known or easily recognized as other noxious weeds in Montana, salt cedar was becoming a real problem on the banks of the Missouri River and its tributaries as well as the shores of Fort Peck Lake. Everyone was fighting salt cedar on their own, but the mix of federal, state, and private land ownership in Montana, makes watershed-based management no simple task. Combine that with the fact that at least 3 federal land management agencies are in charge of the federally owned land, with multiple different private landowners within a single area, and you have a recipe for spotty management efforts at best. That was the scenario until the local conservation districts got involved. Members of the conservation districts recognized the problem and wanted to see a more organized approach to salt cedar management. They called on their regional conservation district group, the Missouri River Conservation Districts Council to bring stakeholders together and discuss salt cedar management.
The result was the first meeting of the Montana Salt Cedar Team that had over 40 attendees, including 4 federal agencies, 2 state agencies, Montana State University Extension, county weed coordinators, conservation district representatives, and local landowners. Since that initial meeting, the group has coordinated 2 large salt cedar control projects on the Missouri River and Fort Peck Lake. The first project was to treat salt cedar on 7 miles of a tributary drainage that crossed 5 different land ownerships. Through multiple stakeholder conversations, letters of support for the project to agency leads, and the personal relationships of local conservation district supervisors with their constituents, the project was successful completed in fall of 2017. The second project was a coordinated treatment of 114 miles of the Missouri River below Fort Peck Dam. This project utilized volunteers coordinated by the Conservation Districts, with support from the Army Corps of Engineers, the Fort Peck Tribes, and the county weed coordinators. Aside from removing salt cedar from the landscape, both of these projects have fostered better communication between agencies and local landowners, which creates a recipe for conservation success in Montana.