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Project Name: Johnson Peak Reforestation

Location: Flathead National Forest, MT

Number of Trees: 13,000

In 1804, Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery left Missouri on a journey that would take them thousands of miles across the country to the Pacific Ocean. When they returned to Missouri more than two years later, they cemented their place in history, bringing with them maps of new territories, tales of new peoples and journals describing hundreds of species of plants and animals never before encountered by European settlers.

One such animal was the abundant Oncorhynchus clarki, or cutthroat trout, which Lewis first described in a place that would become Great Falls, Montana. Montana would retain claim to the cutthroat by making it the official state fish of Montana in 1977. Now, though, it’s estimated that the cutthroat’s natural habitat is less than 30 percent of what it was in Lewis and Clark’s time due to habitat destruction from logging and the effects from livestock grazing, dams and more. Montana has designated the fish a species of concern, and multiple efforts have been made to have it added to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Threatened Species list under the Endangered Species Act.

Trout need healthy streams in which to breed, and there need to be healthy forests to protect those streams. In the streams of northern Montana’s Flathead National Forest, the cutthroat are spawning, specifically in the streams of the Tally Lake Ranger District, known for its abundant lakes, rivers and streams. That’s why American Forests is partnering with the USDA Forest Service to plant 13,000 western larch and Douglas-fir around Johnson Peak in the Tally Lake area to restore degraded forests. These plantings will help restore riparian habitat and improve water quality.

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