Improvements for fish at the Bandy Ranch

Westslope cutthroat trout will have an easier time navigating Shanley Creek with a new bridge and improved culvert system on the University of Montana’s Bandy Ranch.

Bandy Ranch was bequeathed to the College of Forestry and Conservation in 1990 by Ed Bandy. Shanley Creek flows through the property to join Cottonwood Creek and then the Blackfoot River, with headwaters on U.S. Forest Service land.

The CFC partnered with the Big Blackfoot Chapter of Trout Unlimited, Wym and Jan Portman, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Partners for Fish and Wildlife, Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks, and the Westslope Chapter of Trout Unlimited to install a new bridge across the creek on the Portman’s property, remove two too-small culverts, and build a new road out of the riparian area.

The road crossed directly through the stream bed to provide access to the interior of the ranch. Additionally, two culverts on the lower reaches of the stream were too small to allow safe fish passage. The work improves water quality by eliminating sediment runoff into the creek and restores natural stream characteristics.

Forestry students Joe Baer and Mike Wolf helped develop the plan for the initial restoration and bridge work for a class taught by professor Beth Dodson. The class ended in May, but Baer recently visited Bandy on a day off from his new job as a forester for the U.S. Forest Service. “It’s refreshing to do projects as a student that actually get implemented,” says Baer.

Ryen Neudecker from the Big Blackfoot Chapter of Trout Unlimited helped pull together the partners and the funding for this project. “Shanley Creek is an important stream for native trout and this project will benefit westlope cutthroat trout populations by improving instream habitat conditions and restoring migration corridors. We applaud the vision of Wym and Jan Portman and the university and were happy to play a role in seeing this project completed,” she says. 

This fall, new forestry students will complete the work by planting grass along the new road and process logs cut from the road right-of-way. With Montana FWP, UM will monitor fish population to measure how cutthroat benefit from improvements to Shanley Creek.

Photos of the work at Bandy Ranch