Restoration-Upland Mowing

 "Create the conditions that will allow for the restoration, maintenance, and distribution of native grassland and shrubland species (such as rabbitbrush, needle and thread grass, Junegrass, and hairy golden aster) to provide healthy lands for a diverse group of target native resident and migratory wildlife species and to educate visitors about the historical plant and animal diversity of the valley" (Refuge CCP Goal for Grassland and Shrubland Habitat and Associated Wildlife).

Restoration-Reseeding Aquatic Ed PondThe act of restoration involves not only biological communities, but cultural resources (Whaley Homestead) as well. Biologically, a significant part of the restoration proposals is an effort to control invasive plant species and prevent further spread. Grasses and shrubs native to the uplands, including the alluvial fans, are being restored to provide habitat for native wildlife including grassland-dependent migratory birds. Some wetland impoundments may be removed or reduced in size as the river migrates or to provide restoration sites with an overall long-term goal to restore the gallery and riverfront forest for wildlife that are dependent on riparian areas.  


Restoration-Whaley Homestead WorkTo properly interpret the Whaley Homestead while protecting the structure and visitors, the Refuge needs to determine what level of interpretation is appropriate and then work with partners to restore and interpret this historical homestead based on these guidelines. Very little interpretation has been completed because of its current condition. The structure is not safe enough to allow visitors to regularly walk through the building, despite the resources and time the refuge and other partners have dedicated to maintaining it. A National Register of Historic Places sign does provide some history of the site. The interior has been updated by the occupants over the years but does not match the period of the late 1800s. To properly interpret this site while protecting the structure and visitors, the refuge will need to determine what level of interpretation is appropriate and then work with Restoration-Whaley Homestead Fence Workpartners to restore and interpret this historical homestead based on these guidelines. To date many refuge partners have expressed enthusiasm and willingness to help restore the site (in part by providing period furniture). Such efforts could ultimately allow visitors to enter this home and interpret the history of early settlers. Nevertheless, these efforts will be costly, and the Service must ensure that this historical structure remains protected. The overarching interpretive theme for the Whaley Homestead will be land use and its effects on wildlife. Topics will include hydrological changes, agricultural practices, grassland conversion, lumber and forest ecology, and native plant usage, all of which have and will continue to affect refuge resources.  


Restoration-Herbicide ApplicationThe 2010 report prepared by Mickey E. Heitmeyer, Michael J. Artmann and Leigh H. Fredrickson entitled An Evaluation of Ecosystem Restoration and Management Options for Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge thoroughly reviewed options for restoration of process (hydrogeomorphic) and habitat. The authors intent: 

"...this report provides information to support The National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997, which seeks to ensure that the biological integrity, diversity, and environmental health of the (eco)system (in which a refuge sets) are maintained (USFWS 1999,Meretsky et al. 2006). Administrative policy that guides NWR goals includes mandates for: 1) comprehensive documentation of ecosystem attributes associated with biodiversity conservation, 2) assessment of each refuge’s importance across landscape scales, and 3) recognition that restoration of historical processes is critical to achieve goals (Meretsky et al. 2006). Most of the CCP’s completed for NWR’s to date have highlighted ecological restoration as a primary goal, and choose historic conditions (those prior to substantial human related changes to the landscape) as the benchmark condition (Meretsky et al. 2006). General USFWS policy, under the Improvement Act of 1997, directs managers to assess not only historic conditions, but also “opportunities and limitations to maintaining and restoring” such conditions. Furthermore, USFWS guidance documents for NWR management “favor management that restores or mimics natural ecosystem processes or functions to achieve refuge purpose(s)” (USFWS 2001) and to improve biological integrity (USFWS 201:601.FW3).

Restoration-Seed Mix for Planting 265 x 192Given the above USFWS policies and mandates for management of NWR’s, the basis for developing recommendations for Lee Metcalf NWR is the HGM-approach used in this study. The HGM approach objectively seeks to understand: 1) how this ecosystem was created, 2) the fundamental processes that historically “drove” and “sustained” the structure and functions of the system and its communities, and 3) what changes have occurred that have caused ecosystem degradations and that might be reversed and restored to historic and functional conditions within a “new desired” environment. This HGM approach also evaluates the NWR within the context of appropriate regional and continental landscapes, and helps identify its “role” in meeting larger conservation goals and needs at different geographical scales. In many cases, restoration of functional ecosystems on NWR lands can help an individual refuge serve as a “core” of critical, sometimes limiting, resources than can complement and encourage restoration and management on adjacent and regional private and public lands."Restoration-Planting Seed with Drill

Restoration caveats by authors: "Generally, comprehensive restoration of native ecosystems and their sustaining ecological processes at Lee Metcalf NWR will be difficult because of: 1) the small size of the refuge, 2) the “insular” nature of the refuge that increasingly is surrounded by urban/residential expansion and development (Figure 22-Refuge CCP), 3) highly modified landforms and communities on and adjacent to the refuge, 4) constraints on sustaining the inherent morphology and basic hydrology attributes of the Bitterroot River, and 5) high public use and competing demands for refuge management and access. Despite these substantial challenges, based on the HGM context of information obtained and analyzed in this study, we believe that future management of Lee Metcalf NWR should seek to restore ecological communities and processes to the least degraded state possible, including attempts to: 

  •  Restoration-Prescribe Fire Applied to UplandsMaintain the physical and hydrological character of the Bitterroot River and its floodplain on Lee Metcalf NWR.  
  • Restore the natural topography, water regimes, and physical integrity of surface water flow patterns in and across the Bitterroot River floodplain and adjacent terraces and alluvial fans. 
  • Restore and maintain the diversity, composition, distribution, and regenerating mechanisms of native vegetation communities in relationship to topographic and geomorphic landscape position."