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Ennis Moore Creek Restoration Project

Southwest Montana holds plenty of scenic spaces to explore, with towns like Ennis giving visitors a taste of small-town life in an area that still evokes the Wild West. Moore Creek runs through the southeastern corner of the Ennis RV Park before joining Ennis Lake as a tributary of the Madison River. At some point in the past century, this section of the creek was mechanically altered and straightened for agricultural purposes. The results have included erosion, habitat degradation, and other negative impacts.

The goal of the restoration project is to return the creek to a sinuous flow pattern that slows its speed, limits erosion, and improves habitat for a variety of species. It will also include restoring native wetlands and planting shade-giving native shrubs along the banks of the waterway. Participating in regenerative projects like this is one way that Starry Night Lodging hopes to set the standard in regenerative tourism.

Background

Led by Madison Conservation District, this project is a partnership between private owners like Starry Night Lodging, Pat Goggins, and the Goggins Ranch, as well as agency and organizational partners including:

Over the past several years, this project has undergone intensive planning. Phase 1 includes improving a .6-mile stretch of the creek just north of Ennis, with future phases slated to restore a 5-mile section of lower Moore Creek.

Starry Night’s Role in the Project

This project was already in progress when Starry Night Lodging acquired the Ennis RV Park property, and the Starry Night team joined in enthusiastically. Landowner support is essential on multi-agency and inter-organizational projects like these. Starry Night strives to provide a more sustainable approach to travel, including educating travelers about their impact on the environment and the communities they visit.

“The Montana constitution ensures the citizens of Montana access to a clean and healthy environment, and as the stewards tasked with protecting the soil and water health in the Madison Valley, the Madison Conservation District board and staff intend to uphold this constitutional right for all the citizens of the Madison watershed…working with partners from the tourism and agricultural industries will be key to conserving our state's resources for generations to come,” Threlkeld said.

Starry Night made in-kind contributions of willows, alluvium, and sod for streambank and streambed structures. Starry Night has also committed to expanding the existing trail at the RV park. This will include the addition of interpretive signage that describes the project and provides actionable strategies for water conservation so future visitors can learn more and appreciate the importance of this type of restoration.

Progress Update

In spring 2024, Madison Conservation District and NorthWestern Energy staff established two monitoring sites upstream and downstream of the proposed restoration project to monitor pre-project water quality data like turbidity, water flow, temperature, and dissolved oxygen. After breaking ground in fall and winter 2024, Madison Conservation District will be able to begin gathering post-restoration data for comparison.

Some key species that will benefit from the restoration include brown trout, rainbow trout, and migratory birds, and the restoration will provide improved browsing habitat for large herbivores like moose, elk, and deer.