“Restore and conserve the cold water fishery of the Blackfoot River and its tributaries.”
Since the early 1990’s, BBCTU has led the effort to restore the Blackfoot River watershed and its fishery in partnership with local, state, and federal agencies, other non-profits, private foundations and private landowners. Our restoration program is a voluntary, non-regulatory program focused on projects that are “win-win” for both the resource and private landowners.
Since 1990, BBCTU and our restoration partners have worked with over 200 landowners on 700 projects ranging from stream restoration, grazing management, riparian revegetation, fish screens, fish barrier removal and water conservation projects.
One sign of progress — native trout numbers have increased 800% in the middle Blackfoot River compared to pre-restoration levels.
The Big Blackfoot is classic Montana water
Clear, cold, and unimpeded by dams for its entire 132 mile length, the river winds through three canyons, past red rock cliffs and mountains, and alongside wildflower-laden meadows and prairies.
The Blackfoot valley forms the southern boundary of the Crown of The Continent, a fully intact ecosystem still containing every species of fauna that was here before the first European explorers arrived on the scene — one of only twelve such ecosystems left on earth.
Wildlife rare to other regions abounds here. Grizzlies, elk, bighorn sheep, cougar, lynx, wolf and deer all call its valley home. Bald and golden eagles regularly patrol the air space above.
The area is rich in history, both ancient and recent. The great Glacial Lake Missoula floods of 12,000 years ago helped carve the many red rock cliffs found in the area as well as the rolling boulder-strewn native grassland valley floor. For many centuries, the valley was traversed by the Kokalahishkit trail, heavily used by many western tribes to reach the vast buffalo herds to the east. Traces of the Indians’ travois tracks can still be found in the area.
Two centuries ago, Meriwether Lewis followed this trail as his “Voyage of Discovery” — the Lewis and Clark Expedition — made its return trip to St. Louis. Starting on July 4, 1806, Lewis and his band spent four days in the valley, camping on its banks, hunting in its meadows. The vista onto which they gazed during that time has changed little in the intervening two centuries. Meriwether was sufficiently impressed to sketch the rock pictured here into his journal while resting at the mouth of the Clearwater River, a major Big Blackfoot tributary.
It was another twenty years before the next European saw the river when the legendary mountain man Jim Bridger spent the summer of 1826 in the Blackfoot valley, trapping beaver while somehow avoiding the loss of his topknot to the equally legendary and fierce Blackfeet Indians.
Making strides to protect the Blackfoot
The Blackfoot is a biologically rich and relatively undeveloped watershed, one of only twelve blue-ribbon trout rivers in Montana. The 132 miles of mainstream are fed by over 1,900 miles of perennial streams.
At one time badly degraded, the Blackfoot is once again a stronghold for native trout, including west-slope cutthroat trout and the endangered bull trout. This is the direct result of many years of collaboration and on-the-ground efforts by BBCTU and our partners.
One of BBCTU’s first efforts was to fund a program under which Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks surveyed tributaries of the Blackfoot River to determine limiting factors of each, helping BBCTU to prioritize and focus its project objectives. To date, Montana FWP has surveyed close to 200 tributaries and their efforts continue to provide critical baseline data forming an integral part of our program today.
Here’s a summary of our accomplishments to date:
- Over 153 miles of instream habitat restored benefiting 71 streams
- Over 120 miles of riparian habitats restored along the banks of 64 streams
- 3,000 acres of wetlands restored
- 70,000 acres under grazing management systems
- Over 700 miles of fish passage barriers removed
- 37 fish screens installed
- Water conservation projects on 41 tributaries equating to over 49 cfs of water saved (~23,000 Gallons per minute)
- Over 260 tributaries and 6 reaches of the Blackfoot River monitored
- Over 250 landowners involved
- Over 750 total projects
Click here for our most recent 20 year summary report: BBCTU Brochure 2011
Jim Stutzman Missoula, MT
Scott Gordon Greenough, MT
Travis Thurmond Ovando, MT
Juanita Vero Greenough, MT
Kyle Graveley Helmville, MT
Bryan Mannix Helmville, MT
Michael Pecora Bonner, MT
Harry Poett Ovando, MT
Pete Shinn Missoula, MT
Skyla Sisco Greenough, MT
Jim Stone Ovando, MT