Protecting Montana's wild rivers for our families

It doesn’t take much to get me excited about rivers. Running rapids and chasing trout has been a big part of my life for as long as I can remember. And it’s a part that I can’t imagine losing. That’s why I’m thrilled by the opportunity to protect some of Montana’s most iconic rivers through the proposed Montana Headwaters Security Act. Let me take a minute to explain my love for rivers and why I’m urging everyone I know to take action with me to save them.  

The Greater Yellowstone Coalition’s Deputy Director Scott Christensen and his rafting crew on the Yellowstone River. (Photo Scott Christensen.)

The Greater Yellowstone Coalition’s Deputy Director Scott Christensen and his rafting crew on the Yellowstone River. (Photo Scott Christensen.)

It all started when my dad bought a used red Pioneer raft in the early 80’s. We were living in Boise, Idaho and our neighbor was a whitewater fanatic busily introducing us to the state’s wild rivers. What started out as short floats on the Boise River through town quickly escalated to multi-day trips on remote rivers across the state. Today, my favorite childhood memories are peppered with joyful, terrifying, hilariously funny, and exquisitely beautiful scenes and experiences that all have two common threads – rivers and family.

I can still vividly recall getting pinned on a rock in the middle of a treacherous stretch on the South Fork of the Boise River. The raft seemed to instantly take on a U-shape and my brother and I clung to each other on the high side of the raft as we watched dry bags eject from the boat and bob downstream. On another trip, I remember peacefully standing in a pool casting to rising trout when suddenly my brother, in the shape of a cannon ball, sailed over my head from the cliff behind me and landed right where I had been casting. Classic little brother behavior. A few years later, my sister invited a guy she was dating on one of our family river trips. One afternoon while fishing from the front of the raft, he hooked our mom in the arm while casting a size four Sofa Pillow (a very large salmon fly pattern). That trip was the last time I saw Matt.

Admiring the Smith River, another one of the proposed rivers for Wild and Scenic designation in the Montana Headwaters Security Act. (Photo Scott Christensen.)

Admiring the Smith River, another one of the proposed rivers for Wild and Scenic designation in the Montana Headwaters Security Act. (Photo Scott Christensen.)

Rivers hold a place in my heart like few other things in the natural world. Beautiful canyon walls above deep green pools, the quiet, continuous murmur of flowing water, the heads of rising trout snatching delicate mayflies off a glassy surface, and the sparkle of sunlight dancing across water late in the day. These things, just like my family, I cherish. As I’ve grown older and now have four semi-feral kids of my own, river trips have become our annual summer ritual. Our oldest son has largely taken over the oars and his younger brother has proudly claimed the role of “cannon baller in chief.” Our daughters have made new friends around campfires, huddled in the bottom of the raft with cousins during rain storms, and belted out the Star-Spangled Banner as bald eagles soared overhead.

Scott and his mini crew relaxing after a long day on the Yellowstone River. (Photo Scott Christensen.)

Scott and his mini crew relaxing after a long day on the Yellowstone River. (Photo Scott Christensen.)

To experience with my children the same rapids, canyons, swimming holes, and trout-filled waters that so enriched my childhood is an indescribable joy. It has also caused me to examine what it takes to keep a river wild and pristine. Some of my most beloved rivers in Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana are still wild and undeveloped today largely because of the foresight and hard work of people who came before me and campaigned for their protection from things like dams and gold mines. These people spent years building enough local support for protecting rivers that their efforts eventually landed them in the halls of Congress, working with senators and representatives to craft river-saving legislation.

Luckily, people today are still fighting for the rivers they love. At the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, we’re working with partner groups and hundreds of river-loving people to deliver the next generation of river protections in Greater Yellowstone. We’re asking Montana’s congressional delegation to introduce the Montana Headwaters Security Act, which will designate parts of the Gallatin, Yellowstone, Madison, and many more rivers as Wild and Scenic. The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act protects clean water and free-flowing rivers, making it the highest form of river protection in the United States.

Please join me in calling on Montana’s elected leaders to introduce and pass this historic legislation. What better legacy can we leave our children than clean water, wild rivers, and the opportunity to share those things with their children?

-Scott Christensen, Deputy Director


Contact Info for Montana’s Delegation:

Senator Jon Tester: 202.224.2644 | 311 Hart Senate Office Building, Washington DC, 20510-2604

Senator Steve Daines: 202.224.2651 | 320 Hart Senate Office Building, Washington DC, 20510

Rep. Greg Gianforte: 202.225.3211 | 1222 Longworth HOB, Washington DC, 20515