Lawrence Anderson measures the stream’s velocity June 23. PHOTO BY HANNAH KEARSE

Madison Stream Team


Jack Creek was flowing fast for June 23 as the Madison Stream Team collected stream data.

The Madison Conservation District program collects stream data, such as stream flow, conductivity, pH levels, oxygenation, and observations, for Jack Creek every three weeks, from shortly before runoff to early fall. The volunteer group of field workers rotate between three Madison River tributaries each week – Jack Creek, Moores Creek and South Meadow Creek. More streams are monitored some years, depending on the size of the team.

“At one time, we were up to as many as eight,” Madison Stream Team volunteer David Bricker said. “The West Fork all the way down Warm Creek below the Bear Trap.”

It is Bricker’s 11th season with the Madison Stream Team. He helped shape the community program to what it is today. According to Bricker, the Montana Ranchlands Group tried to foster a volunteer group to monitor Madison River tributaries in the early 2000s. There was a need to update and expand the Montana Department of Environmental Quality’s data on impaired streams.

“Back when it first started the DEQ haven’t even done TMDL (Total Maximum Daily Loads) assessments for the impaired streams,” Bricker said. “We were collecting data on streams where there was no data.”

A TMDL assessment identifies sources of pollution in Montana’s surface waters and determines how much pollution can be sustained while supporting the designated uses. The assessments start the process of finding ways to minimize pollution in those waters while remaining useful to local communities – a more sustainable way of life.

Old mining and agricultural pursuits damaged many of Madison County’s waterways. Some of the old methods of land management that disrupted ecosystems were not known at the time to be harmful, but the science evolved and with it came new knowledge. Conservation efforts have sought to correct the misled past and have produced ground-breaking results.

The Madison Conservation District generates many conservation efforts in the area. The Madison Steam Team volunteers take on a sliver of the process with collecting consistent, accurate data. The program also brings the community into the process.

“It was a way to involve people like me – we’re not scientists – and build a database,” Bricker said.

The program involved Ennis students to monitor Moores Creek a few years ago. According to Bricker, Moores Creek in Ennis is the only Madison River tributary that has a data table level of E. coli. The field work gets people involved and nurtures an interest in science. Most of the members are fly-fisher-folk, who want to help conserve their loved sport and places.

“I mean Lawrence here practically wakes up in his waders,” Madison Conservation District Programs Manager David Laufenberg said.

Lawrence Anderson has been on the Madison Stream Team for six seasons. He brought along his friend, Rick Eggers, to the team two years ago. They enjoy the company and the mission of the program. Gathering data in a cool mountain stream among like-minded people is usually fun work but it is a vital part of ensuring that the Madison River fisheries are healthy.

“I like the idea of having good data,” Bricker said. “The better data you have, the better decisions are made.

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The Madisonian

65 N. MT Hwy 287
Ennis, MT 59729

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