Wild rivers and their enthusiasts got some good news with the release of the new 15-20 year Forest plan for the Flathead National Forest. The decision newly protects 22 streams as eligible for Wild and Scenic designation, based in large part on the advocacy of American Whitewater and our awesome partners and members in Montana. These protections will serve as a vital steppingstone to the designation of some of our Nation’s most outstanding headwater streams.
In 2004 the Forest Service conducted a Wild and Scenic River eligibility inventory in which they found 10 streams qualifying for protections. Unfortunately those protections were never implemented because of unrelated errors in the larger planning effort.
When the Forest Service reinitiated their planning process American Whitewater and our partners in Montanans for Healthy Rivers researched, authored and submitted an eligibility inventory of our own. AW staff and volunteers explored and documented several streams as part of that effort. That document triggered a new look at eligibility by the Forest Service. Their draft report was good but left out a stream we strongly recommended through exploration, a film, comments, and a meeting. This stream, Upper Twin Creek, was included in the final plan. The end result: a new forest plan that protects the values and free flowing status of 22 outstanding streams in the Flathead River watershed. Here are some highlights:
We’d like to commend the Flathead National Forest for a job well done. They certainly did not find all the streams we recommended to be eligible, but their process was good and they selected some great streams for protection. Big thanks to Patagonia, KEEN, REI, and the Cinnabar Foundation for supporting our work on these great streams, and our partners in Montanans for Healthy Rivers.
We look forward to working with everyone who loves Montana’s river to secure Congressional designation for some or all of these streams in the coming years!