Protecting river recreation with Wild and Scenic

If you live and play in southwest Montana, then you’re not a stranger to Hyalite Creek near Bozeman, the Taylor Fork of the Gallatin south of Big Sky, Pine Creek in the Paradise Valley, or Sky Top Creek north of Cooke City.

These places are beloved playgrounds for residents and visitors alike. These streams also give life to elk, grizzly bears, wolverines, and native cutthroat trout. And for so many people, recreating outside is our medicine, our sanity. It reconnects us to the natural world – the sounds of birds, the flow of creeks, the sky overhead and earth underfoot. Recreating outside can be an antidote to our complicated, stressful, and urbanized existence. And what’s good for our peace of mind is also good for our economy. Montana’s outdoor economy supports 71,000 jobs, and generates $2.2 billion in wages and salaries, $7.1 billion in consumer spending, and $286 million in state and local taxes. 

We want the Forest Service to recognize that waters across Montana’s Custer-Gallatin National Forest contribute to this prosperity, and are worth protecting because people use them for fishing and other recreating. In the 1980s, when the Forest Service wrote its last management plan for this area, they recognized that sections of the famous Yellowstone, Madison, and Gallatin rivers were eligible to be protected under a law that keeps water clean, and keeps rivers free from dams.

Today we can use that law – the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act – to protect recreation on well-loved and well-used rivers and streams. The time is right for this. The forest is creating its next 30-year plan for managing the Custer-Gallatin, and we can recommend streams that we think are eligible to be protected under the law.

That’s why two interns and I spent several months this summer inventorying streams across the forest. Next month, we’ll be releasing our report on which streams we’re recommending as eligible. 

Rivers that are Wild and Scenic are protected for your fishing and boating, and for your access to streams. And the law keeps these healthy headwaters just as they are.

We need to use tools like the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act if we want to protect our recreation and our economy for both ourselves and for future generations. You can join us in advocating for more eligible Wild and Scenic Rivers across Montana. Call or email me today to find out how.

-- Charles Wolf Drimal, Waters Program Associate