GYC seeks stronger protection for 645 miles of Montana rivers

We’re recommending that the Forest Service protect 645 miles of streams and rivers in southwest Montana from dams and other industrial development. Imagine walking from the Space Needle in Seattle to the GYC office in Bozeman – eight hours a day for a month – and you’ll be imagining the 645 river miles we’re asking Montana’s Custer Gallatin National Forest to keep as they are.

  Cottonwood Creek, in Montana's Crazy Mountains. (Photo GYC.)

 Cottonwood Creek, in Montana's Crazy Mountains. (Photo GYC.)

Our recommendations have a great chance to protect these waters for the next 30 years, thanks to the Custer Gallatin revising its plan for the forest. Last month, the Forest Service reached a major milestone in creating the final plan when they released what’s called the proposed action. This draft plan is a good start, with the forest proposing to protect 31 critical streams (278 miles) under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.

We need to do better. The forest has left too many key streams out of their plan. Eligibility under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act keeps our streams flowing freely. You can help. Let the Forest Service know the Taylor Fork of the Gallatin, the South Fork of the Madison, and the upper Yellowstone’s Hellroaring Creek are among the many streams that need to be added to their final plan.

What makes these additional rivers special? Our recommendations and report are grounded in our review of 761 streams in the Montana portion of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and field inventories. During four months in the summer and fall of 2017, GYC's Charles Drimal and  interns Taylor and Connor hiked, walked, ran, and backpacked to remote and front county streams ranging from tributaries of the Madison River to the headwaters of the Yellowstone.  They visited nearly 120 streams (of 940 in the Custer Gallatin) to show their ability to support native fish, grizzly bears, wolverines, elk, and more. They took pictures. They created maps. Our final report highlights the last best, clean and free-flowing waters in the region.

 The West Fork of Rock Creek. (Photo GYC.)

The West Fork of Rock Creek. (Photo GYC.)

Please take a few minutes to comment today. Comments close on March 5. This is your chance to protect the clean water and wild rivers of Greater Yellowstone.

-- Bob Zimmer, Waters Program Coordinator