Seeley Swan Pathfinder -


By Andi Bourne

Reviving Tupper's Lake so It Can Thrive


Andi Bourne, Pathfinder

Looking west across Tupper's Lake.

SEELEY LAKE - The Nature Conservancy (TNC), with the help of partners and local contractors, are working on the Clearwater-Blackfoot Project, 117,152 acres of land acquired in the Blackfoot Valley from Plum Creek in October, 2014.

This past week they were working with West Slope Excavation at Tupper's Lake, two and a half miles from Seeley Lake and two miles north of Placid Lake, in preparation for their annual Revive and Thrive Event July 24.

Ever since the purchase of the Clearwater-Blackfoot Project, TNC staff and nine local contractors have implemented restoration projects including:

• Pre-commercially thinned nearly 95 acres of forest

• Marked 20 acres of forest for commercial thinning scheduled for the fall of 2016

• More than 11,000 knapweed weevils released at 105 sites

• 1,200 miles of road and 460 stream crossings mapped and inventoried

• Hand cleaned more than 112 culverts at stream crossings

• Removed four failing culverts

• Restored 17 user-created roads/routes

• Sprayed more than 100 acres of noxious weeds on road right-of-ways and spot treatments including follow-up spraying and treatment of new invaders.

This year Tupper's Lake, below Double Arrow Lookout, was identified as a choice location for TNC's resources for several reasons.

"There are a lot of lakes like this," said TNC Western Montana Land Protection Director Chris Bryant. "What makes this place different is we had some work that needed to be done to bring the road standards up and identified that it is so close to town."

After talking with several user groups including the Seeley-Swan ATV Club and Seeley Lake Driftriders, Bryant felt they were able to accomplish TNC's objectives while maintaining use.

TNC wants to retain the road from Placid to Tupper's Lake but it needs to be repaired. TNC is looking for local partners that may be interested in helping fund the work to make the road more usable.

TNC is working with Missoula County to alter the rights of the old road along the lakeshore to the main road below the Double Arrow Lookout. Both roads run along the south end of the lake. It will be turned into a footpath with parking areas on either side of it.

"When the lake is at normal levels it is literally under water just dumping sediment in," said Bryant. "It also makes it nearly impassible."

Road Best Management Practices (BMPs) will be implemented on an old Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC) road on the northwest end of the lake that will assist the logging trucks. This will assist the DNRC in their upcoming sales in the area.

Finally, the close proximity to Seeley Lake and Placid Lake, was also impetus for the project.

"There is obviously a desire in Seeley Lake to enhance trails and recreation and this could be a really cool place for families to come," said Bryant. "Why not clean it up so it is a little more respected?"

TNC will be installing some picnic tables at various locations along the lake as well as parking areas at both ends of a foot trail they will put in around the lake, pending DNRC approval. Along the path, TNC would like to include an interpretive sign at an old mill site on the north end of the lake.

The work at Tupper's Lake is being done by local contractor Bill Bartlett and his sons Cody and Leland of West Slope Excavation. The Barletts opened Seeley Lake Trucking in Seeley Lake in 1996. They had 25 employees and ran 20 log trucks.

"At the turn of the economy we were done," said Bartlett. "We struggled for a year or two but then we had had enough."

Bartlett started West Slope Excavation in 2009 after the logging economy dried up. They contract with TNC and Big Blackfoot Chapter of Trout Unlimited (BBCTU) and do a lot of stream restoration work.

Bartlett likes working locally with his sons and thinks the work is fun. He has learned a lot about stream restoration, irrigation and road best management practices and appreciates that the BBCTU is not anti-cattle.

Andi Bourne, Pathfinder

West Slope Excavation is removing this old culvert that is notoriously plugged by a beaver at the lake's outlet. The culvert will be replaced with a 30-foot culvert with a gate installed that allows TNC to control the lake level. Typically water flows out of the lake until mid-July. This year the flow stopped at the end of June. A beaver deceiver will also be installed to thwart the beavers attempt to plug the outlet. Pictured (L-R): TNC Western Montana Land Steward Steve Kloetzel, Leland Bartlett, Bill Bartlett, Chris Bryant and Cody Bartlett.

"A lot of this stuff I didn't really realize what was going on until I was educated," said Bartlett. "These projects are absolutely critical because I'm able to stay here. It's everything. I'm hoping to have something for my kids to take over because they don't want to leave. We are really fortunate that we have these kinds of projects because [if we didn't] we wouldn't be here and we would have to move."

Last year TNC held their Revive and Thrive event at Primm Meadows, a 120-acre remnant stand of ponderosa pine and larch. TNC decided to hold the event again this year at Tupper's Lake because of its success last year.

Beginning at 10 a.m., Saturday, July 24, there will be an opportunity for volunteers to help put in a beaver deceiver in the culvert at the lake outlet and help with general clean up around the lake. Pending the approval of an annual land-use license with DNRC, volunteers will also assist with building a foot trail around the lake. Those wishing to volunteer must RSVP to Helen Jenkins at or call 406-543-6681.

In the afternoon, there will be free food, music and activity tables from several local organizations. The whole community is invited to attend.

For more information about the Clearwater-Blackfoot Project or the Revive and Thrive event visit


Reader Comments


Powered by ROAR Online Publication Software from Lions Light Corporation
© Copyright 2019