Montana Restoration Economy (1)

Reclamation Projects Bring Jobs to Montana Communities

Our grandparents may not have known about the unintended consequences of channelizing streams, but we certainly do. Today, Montanans from Eureka to the Ruby are taking in information and finding ways to help rivers and streams regain their curves. These reclamation efforts improve trout habitat, mitigate floods, and curb erosion.

But the benefits don’t stop with conservation improvements. These restoration projects also give a boost to the local economy.

The Lincoln Conservation District, serving our most northwestern county, currently has two restoration projects in the works, the Tobacco River and Mud Creek.

We went up to Eureka last month to check out these reclamation sites during the 2018 Watershed Symposium. Both were at different points of completion and something caught our attention: excavators.


Because where there are excavators, there are jobs.

Bob Cuffe, the owner of Glacier Excavating, met us at the Tobacco River restoration site. The project, which started construction in July of 2018, was nearing completion.

The view was breathtaking.

It is heartwarming to think of community volunteers correcting a stream with buckets and shovels — until they have to remove an entire car from a river bank. The reality is, these projects require specialists.

Luckily, Cuffe’s company specializes in stream restoration.  

This may seem like a limited scope for a company. But, it is keeping Cuffe and his employees busy working across western Montana and Idaho on restoration projects big and small.

His guys make good money — better than what they’d make sticking with a job close to home. The tradeoff is spending up to 20 weeks out of the year out on the road. Anyone who has had to work away from home for long periods of time knows how nice it is to kick your boots up on your own coffee table-not one in a hotel lounge.

Cuffe and his team were excited to land the Tobacco River Restoration project as well as the Mud Creek Restoration project, which just started construction this past fall. Both projects are in Glacier Excavating’s hometown of Eureka, which allowed Cuffe and much of his crew to spend their busy season coming home to their own families each night, rather than spending much of the season out on the road.

“It’s been a really cool summer,” said Cuffe.

-Andie Creel

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You can find the full study and link to Headwater’s form here

Infographic photographs provided by Mackenzie Lisac