Protecting the Headwaters of America’s Iconic Wildland:
Three of America’s critical river systems – the Missouri, Columbia, and Colorado – all begin in Greater Yellowstone. These rivers give life to this region and beyond, nourishing the lands, providing vital habitat for native fish and wildlife, and delivering water to more than 55 million people – roughly 20 percent of Americans.
Rivers, streams, and lakes are the lifeblood of Greater Yellowstone. Life cannot exist without water, making it our most important natural resource.
Within our waters conservation program, we aim to:
- Keep Greater Yellowstone’s waters pristine and free-flowing
- Restore and protect vital rivers, lakes, and streams
- Replenish wild, native fish populations
At the forefront of our river conservation work, the Greater Yellowstone Coalition prioritizes protecting free-flowing rivers and maintaining water quality. Our tool of choice is the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act – America’s strongest form of river protection. Through on the ground support, we have a proven legacy of river conservation success with National Wild and Scenic Rivers designated on the Snake River Headwaters and Clarks Fork of the Yellowstone River in Wyoming.
Now we are turning our attention to protecting the last, best iconic rivers in southwest Montana under the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act.
Examples of our work
Protecting and defending the West’s most important rivers
In the arid West, water is life. Greater Yellowstone is the headwaters of the West, with three of America’s critical river systems – the Missouri, Columbia, and Colorado – born on the high peaks of the region and supporting some 55 million people downstream. Renowned rivers such as the Yellowstone, Madison, Snake and Green provide vital habitat for some of the most productive fisheries on Earth, as well as an astounding array of birds and other wildlife. Climate change, new dams and diversions, and a host of other pressures threaten these cherished waters. Our long-term goal is to permanently protect 750 miles of Greater Yellowstone’s iconic, free-flowing rivers.
Native Fish Conservation
Safeguarding our wild and native fish populations
For anglers, the trout streams of Greater Yellowstone are hallowed waters. Nowhere else in the world can you find four distinct cutthroat trout subspecies inhabiting one large ecosystem. Divided by major watersheds, the Yellowstone, Westslope, Bonneville, and Colorado River cutthroat trout all swim in the waters of Greater Yellowstone. Habitat degradation and fragmentation, as well as competition and hybridization with non-native trout have greatly imperiled these beautiful fish. Our goal is to restore native trout populations where possible, and ensure both wild and native trout have clean, healthy waters and habitats.
RESTORING DEGRADED STREAMS
WORKING TOWARD HEALTHY WATERSHEDS
A century of mining, road building, grazing and other activities has left some of Greater Yellowstone’s streams and wetlands in need of some much needed repairs. Phosphate mining in southeast Idaho has created a legacy of polluted waters and fishless streams. We are working to hold companies accountable and catalyze the cleanup of these damaged watersheds. The creation of a new mitigation fund that brings much needed financial resources to bear is a key strategy for restoring healthy conditions in this part of Greater Yellowstone. We are also working through partnerships in places like the Madison Valley and Bear River Watershed to restore streamflow and riparian areas, and improve water quality and fish passage.
Banner photo copyright: Tom Murphy