Greater Yellowstone Coalition

Climate Change Challenge

Regional climate modeling suggests the Madison River watershed is likely to experience a 2.16C mean temperature increase by 2059. Cold-water fish species will be highly vulnerable to this climate change if they are unable to access upstream, cold-water refugia currently blocked by human-caused barriers and degraded habitats at mid and low elevations. Since these same riparian areas serve as critical migratory roots for mammals through the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, restoring these areas will ensure safe passage for a range of species.

The Conservation Response

Greater Yellowstone Coalition identified headwater reaches of three tributaries -­‐ Ruby Ck., Horse Ck., and West Fork -­‐ that are presently too cold to support fish growth, but will be crucial cold-­water refuges as temperatures increase. Higher temperatures and more arid conditions are and will continue to reduce high elevation food sources for grizzly bears, making low elevation habitats and linkages increasingly important. CircuitScape modeling identified these same tributaries as key potential connectivity routes for grizzly bears and wolverines between occupied core habitat in the Madison Range and new habitats to the west.

To improve access to approximately 40 miles of headwater stream habitat and provide more secure riparian cover for rare carnivore movement, Greater Yellowstone Coalition:

1) Revegetated degraded riparian areas and enhance pool/riffle structure using large woody debris treatments throughout the Ruby Creek corridor;
2) Removed a dilapidated irrigation head gate on Horse Creek to allow movement and access to cold-­‐water habitat and enhance riparian cover through plantings where vegetation has been degraded by grazing and road-building;
3) Removed a user-­created ATV trail from the West Fork stream corridor and restore riparian habitat to reduce sedimentation, lower water temperature and improve carnivore connectivity.

Geography

Montana

The Nature Conservancy, Minnesota
Grand Canyon Trust