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Custer-Gallatin Plan Contains New River Protections (MT)

Posted: 07/09/2020
By: Kevin Colburn

Today, Montana's Custer-Gallatin National Forest became the most recent National Forest to release their new final management plan. American Whitewater engaged with our partners in Outdoor Alliance Montana, working with local volunteer Chris Ennis, to provide detailed information to the Forest Service on the recreational values and needs. Over the several year long process we shaped a vision for the Forest that was refined and presented to the Forest Service. A central part of that vision for paddlers was a request that several streams be granted new protections through deeming them eligible for Wild and Scenic designation. The new Forest Plan contains 30 eligible streams totaling 253 miles, 18 of which are newly protected in the plan totaling 117 miles, and many of which were requested and supported by American Whitewater and our partners in Outdoor Alliance Montana.

The eligible streams read like a whitewater guidebook for the area north of Yellowstone National Park. One river receiving new protections that paddlers were especially passionate about is Big Timber Creek, and like a few streams in the new plan whitewater paddling is referenced as part of the values that led to protection of Big Timber. Other rivers on the list include the Boulder, Rock Creek, Stillwater, Gallatin, Madison, and the Clarks Fork of the Yellowstone. While the Forest Service did not support all of our requests and we'll be taking a deep look into the final plan to understand their rationale, the new plan is without question a big step forward in river conservation. You can see the full list of eligible streams on page 121 of the Forest Plan.

The Wild and Scenic eligibility findings in the new forest plan also largely dovetail with and support the proposed Montana Headwaters Legacy Act. This legislation, developed out of a decade long effort by American Whitewater and our partners in Montanans for Healthy Rivers, is the next step to ensuring these exemplary streams are protected for future generations. While the forest planning process is wrapped up, now is a great time to ask Congress for introduction of the Montana Headwaters Legacy Act.

We'd like to thank the whole community of folks who actively engaged in this forest planning process through going to meetings, writing comment letters, and even simply adding photos and text to the AW river pages that we used to advocate for these new protections. We'll also extend a special thank-you to Chris Ennis for representing paddlers in Outdoor Alliance Montana.

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