Montana National Forest Proposes New Stream Protections

Posted: 05/27/2016
By: Kevin Colburn

The Flathead National Forest is a treasure trove of whitewater paddling thanks to the three forks of the Wild and Scenic Flathead River, the Swan River, and many robust tributaries. Today, the Forest released their new inventory of streams they intend to protect as eligible for future Wild and Scenic designation.  The inventory includes 22 outstanding streams, 10 of which are new eligible streams totalling 125 river miles.

American Whitewater has worked closely with our partners in Montanans for Healthy Rivers (MHR) and many citizens of the state for the past six years to prioritize streams for additional safeguards from dams and other impacts. Nine of the ten newly protected streams are part of the Citizen's Proposal to designate a system of new Wild and Scenic Rivers in Montana and part of our request for eligibility findings, and we appreciate the acknowledgement of the Forest Service that these streams merit protection.

Streams receiving new protections include the Lower Swan River and Elk, Glacier and Lion creeks in the Swan Valley, and Youngs and Graves creeks in the South Fork Flathead watershed. Eligibility was renewed for other outstanding streams like the Spotted Bear River, and Logan Creek near Whitefish.

Several streams in our Citizen's Proposal were not found eligible in the Forest's inventory, and we'll be seeking your help to change that through providing additional evidence of excellence to the Forest Service during the 4-month comment period. We also ask that you take just a minute to endorse the Citizen's Proposal to help us protect these streams.     

Eligible streams receive interim protection from dams and other impacts through the Forest Plan. Eligible streams are freeflowing and those found to have at least one rare, unique, or exemplary value that is regionally or nationally significant. Eligibility recognizes that Congress moves slower than developers, and the public therefore deserves time to consider and designate the last best streams on public lands.

The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act turns 50 years old in 2018, and American Whitewater is working with partners and paddlers across the US to celebrate. The greatest gift we can give the Wild and Scenic Rivers System and the vast community of people that cherish it is to grow it through protecting streams as eligible and formally designating them. American Whitewater is working with our friends in Montana and across the Country to do just that, and the system is now poised to get at least 10 streams bigger! 

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