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Montana Headwaters

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The Montana Headwaters Campaign is a creative grassroots approach to conserving some of Montana's and the continents most incredible rivers. American Whitewater is one of the champions of this issue, along with our partners in Montanans for Healthy Rivers. We began having conversations with organizations and individuals who care about the State's rivers in 2010, and have thoughtfully built support for a river conservation initiative since that time. In the fall of 2013 we co-hosted four Community River Forums across the state to discuss conservation opportunities, priorities, and concerns in Whitefish, Missoula, Bozeman, and Red Lodge.

As a coalition we support community-driven conservation initiatives that benefit rivers like the North Fork Protection Act and the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act, as well as exploring and promoting locally-supported Wild and Scenic River designations and other river conservation opportunities. We also encourage responsible protection of river that are eligible for Wild and Scenic designation by the US Forest Service.


  • In 2011 we produced the first ever statewide report outlining rivers that are currently or are strong candidates for protection as “eligible” for Wild and Scenic designation by the US Forest Service.
  • In 2013 our efforts to defeat proposed hydropower dams on East Rosebud Creek, West Rosebud Creek, and the Madison River proved successful when the developer withdrew their exploratory permits.
  • We worked to have the Water Resources Reform and Development Act passed in 2014 which includes significant financial resources for the state, counties, municipalities, and individuals to voluntarily protect and restore rivers on private lands.
  • In 2014 we helped inspire the introduction of legislation to designate East Rosebud Creek as a Wild and Scenic River
  • In 2015 we secured protection for Callahan Creek and Ross Creek through appealing a Forest Service Wild and Scenic eligibility inventory.
  • In 2018 we secured Wild and Scenic River designation for East Rosebud Creek, and Wild and Scenic eligibility for 22 Flathead River tributaries!

Learn more about these and other efforts at

Check out a few fun videos to learn more about Montana's incredible and often under-protected rivers:

Flathead River Tributaries Get Protection for Christmas (MT)

01/11/2019 - by Kevin Colburn

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. 

East Rosebud Creek is a New Wild and Scenic River!

08/03/2018 - by Kevin Colburn

August 2, 2018, the President's signature marked the exciting finale of nearly a decade of efforts to protect Montana's East Rosebud Creek from hydropower development and other impacts. Twenty miles of this beautiful stream were designated as a Wild and Scenic River as it flows from the rugged Beartooth Mountains between Big Timber and Red Lodge, Montana. East Rosebud is treasured by local residents, paddlers, anglers, hikers, and other visitors.

Bill to Protect East Rosebud Creek Heads to President's Desk!

07/26/2018 - by Kevin Colburn

The Senate yesterday passed Senators Jon Tester and Steve Daines and Congressman Greg Gianforte’s bill that protects 20 miles of the East Rosebud in south-central Montana as part of the Wild and Scenic River System. Here at American Whitewater we are overjoyed by the bill's passage, and would like to thank the entire Montana delegation for working together in a bi-partisan way to protect this wonderful stream.

Congressman Gianforte Introduces East Rosebud Wild & Scenic Bill (MT)

12/14/2017 - by Kevin Colburn

Earlier today Montana Congressman Greg Gianforte introduced legislation to designate Montana’s East Rosebud Creek as a Wild and Scenic River! The bill matches bipartisan legislation introduced earlier this year by Montana Senators Jon Tester and Steve Daines. As we approach the 50th anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act in 2018, this popular bill is now well positioned for passage if the Montana delegation can shepherd it through Congress. We’d like to thank the delegation for championing this bill!

Help Protect Flathead River Tributaries (MT)

09/26/2016 - by Kevin Colburn

Next month marks the 40th anniversary of the designation of Montana's four Wild and Scenic Rivers (3 Flathead Forks + the Missouri). We now have a once-in-a-generation chance to expand on that incredible legacy of river conservation in Montana. Take action to support new river protections on the Flathead National Forest this week! 

Montana National Forest Proposes New Stream Protections

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. These streams were recommended for protection by American Whitewater, our partners in Montanans for Healthy Rivers, and citizens from across the state and country. 

Help Protect Streams on Montana's Lewis and Clark National Forest

11/30/2015 - by Kevin Colburn

Montana's Lewis and Clark National Forest is updating the inventory of rivers they protect as eligible for Wild and Scenic designation. Paddler comments on these streams on the Rocky Mountain Front and other great parts of Montana can help protect some of the state's most outstanding streams from dams and other potential impacts. Comments are due by December 15th, and make great Christmas presents for Montana rivers!

Flathead National Forest River Protections Open for Comment (MT)

05/08/2015 - by Kevin Colburn

The Flathead National Forest has released the list of streams they propose to protect as “eligible” for Wild and Scenic designation in their forthcoming revised Forest Plan.  Paddlers with opinions on the list are encouraged to send the Forest an email or letter before the May 15, 2015 comment deadline. Your comment could help protect spectacular rivers and streams.  

AW Appeal Protects Two Montana Rivers, Others Left At Risk

01/30/2015 - by Kevin Colburn

Earlier this month Montana's Kootenai National Forest found Callahan and Ross creeks to be eligible for Wild and Scenic designation in response to an appeal crafted by American Whitewater.  This decision will protect these two awesome streams from hydropower development for current and future generations. The Kootenai and Idaho Panhandle national forests however left many worthy streams unprotected, and disregarded paddling values on several incredible streams.  

The contacts below include staff and volunteers working on this project. Make sure you are logged in if you wish to join the group.

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