In spite of the durability of rock-walled canyons and the surging power of cataracting water, the wild river is a fragile thing—the most fragile portion of the wilderness country. – John Craighead, legendary Montana biologist
Montana’s rivers are ageless. But they are also very prone to change. It is far easier and less expensive to keep our rivers healthy and our water clean than to try to repair or clean them up after the damage is done.
As America’s population exceeds 310 million, our nation is putting more and more pressure on our rivers. Pipelines, floodplain development, and new dams and diversions all have the power to change our rivers forever.
Plus, Montana is getting hotter and drier. By 2050, scientists predict that Montana will be 5 degrees warmer and receive 10% less precipitation. This will likely increase the demand for large new dams, the kind that Montanans successfully fought off on the Middle Fork Flathead, Yellowstone, Big Hole, and other treasured rivers in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. Some new water storage projects may prove necessary, but we cannot afford to imprison all our best rivers behind concrete. We need to think ahead and plan for the future.