It’s spring in Montana and summer is just around the corner. The streams begin to swell with the life-giving waters of last winter’s snowpack; the poplar seeds drift on the afternoon air currents to land on these rising waters, which will carry them to fertile soil. Montana’s population is also growing, as residents and visitors alike put their skis away and prepare for what many predict will be record numbers of tourists to our parks and other wild places.
For the nearly 900 members of FOAM – the Fishing Outfitters Association of Montana – this is what we have been waiting for all winter. We are ready and we are excited. But after a year of profound societal changes, we are also thinking about the future. Ours and our rivers ”.
Our future is inexorably intertwined with that of rivers. Economically, we rely on clean, healthy rivers to deliver the iconic experiences that attract our customers from around the world. Whether it’s the cry of a reel as a Madisonian brown trout peels, or the humble beauty of a native cutthroat caught and released in a secret stream, there’s a reason. that so many people come to Montana for. Yet these are just the most obvious ways our rivers fuel our $ 7.1 billion outdoor recreation industry. For all the cars hired to view wildlife in Yellowstone, the unforgettable dinners with iconic mountain views, and amenities purchased from local businesses, rivers are the lifeblood that keeps the environment healthy. In doing so, they keep our economy healthy.
Of course, that’s only half the story. Like many of our colleagues, we do what we do because we love rivers. We like to spend our days in the water. Perhaps more than anything, we love to share this joy with others.
For all of these reasons and more, FOAM supports the Montana Headwaters Legacy Act (MHLA). This historic, locally supported legislation would protect a landscape of rivers in the Greater Yellowstone and Smith river systems by designating them as Wild and Scenic, the strongest form of federal river protection in the United States. This will help us better understand the health of our rivers and respond to any threats that may emerge tomorrow or ten years from now. Equally important, the wild and scenic designations will help raise awareness of the quality of our waters and the urgent need to protect them.
Each of the 17 rivers and streams in the MHLA is unique, and we all fall in love with something different. For some, it’s the scenic mountain views of the Paradise Valley of the Yellowstone River. For others, it’s the roar of living water above an isolated hole in the Boulder. This is part of what makes MHLA’s holistic approach so powerful. Each waterway is part of a larger, connected system. If we secure this system enough to keep it whole, we are protecting something more than the sum of its parts. It is vital that we do this for fish, wildlife and people.
Our river systems, as we know them today, will not last if we do not act now. Many who visit Montana’s rivers see them as limitless pristine resources. But those of us who live and work on the water every day see a more complete story. Indeed, we have a lot to lose. Between increasing human pressures, lower flows at the end of the season, an uncertain snowpack and increasingly frequent algae blooms, our rivers are changing rapidly. These changes are too ambitious to respond with anything less than what the MHLA is proposing. We must look beyond our own personal impacts and act together to achieve the greatest collective impact our rivers need.
FOAM calls on those chosen to represent the Montanais – Senator Jon Tester, Senator Steve Daines and Representative Matt Rosendale – to reintroduce and pass the Montana Headwaters Legacy Act today. We also call on all guides and outfitters in the state, whether or not they work on the rivers, to answer this call and to lead by example. We all depend, directly or indirectly, on public resources. It’s up to us to protect them.