In the last decade, TU has spearheaded numerous projects benefiting native fish in western Montana. Seeing that a modest investment in staff time and resources can lead to huge funding opportunities and fisheries gains, TU is expanding this program to the headwaters of the Clark Fork River, where bull trout and westslope cutthroat trout – as well as other sportfish - are threatened by high stream temperatures, low flows, habitat degradation and high nutrient and metals concentrations in the upper 6,000 square miles of the watershed.
Although the Upper Clark Fork River has suffered from the potent legacy of historical mining pollution, there are three major factors for TU’s optimism: 1) the removal of Milltown Dam in 2008 and removal of mining waste has reunited the Middle and Upper Clark Fork rivers for the first time in 100 years; 2) the State of Montana settled a lawsuit with the Atlantic Richfield Company (ARCO) that released $150 million dollars for restoration work in the Upper Clark Fork River, and 3) TU is rapidly strengthening partnerships with state, federal and non profit entities in the upper watershed to plan and implement restoration activities.
TU has hired a full time staff person to work with the Beaverhead Deerlodge National Forest, Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks, Clark Fork Coalition, Upper Clark Fork Watershed Restoration Coalition and other project partners, like the Orvis fly fishing company. Projects will focus on fish passage improvement and creating projects that benefit both coldwater fish and private landowners with working agricultural lands.
The following are completed or active projects in Upper Clark Fork River: