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The Yellowstone River stretches over 670 miles and is the longest free-flowing river in the lower 48 states. Originating in Yellowstone National Park, it drains 70,000 square miles of land before it joins the Missouri River northeast of Sidney, Montana. In addition to an abundance of fish and wildlife, the Yellowstone River supports a wide variety of agricultural, domestic, industrial, and recreational uses.
The natural and historic significance of the Yellowstone River, combined with major floods in 1996 and 1997, elevated interest and increased public debate over the impacts of human activities on the River. The lack of information upon which to base permitting decisions emphasized the need for public forums to discuss complex issues and potential solutions. Governor Marc Racicot created the Upper Yellowstone River Task Force in 1997 to address problems arising from the floods and begin studying the cumulative effects in Park County. In 1999, the Yellowstone River Conservation District Council was formed to address conservation issues on the entire river.
Who We Are
The Yellowstone River Conservation District Council (Council) is made up of representatives from twelve conservation districts bordering the main stem of the Yellowstone River (see sidebar). A thirteenth member represents the Montana Association of Conservation Districts. The Council has a chair and a vice-chair, one each selected from the upper and lower reaches of the river.
Conservation districts have over 60 years experience successfully working and cooperating with private individuals, groups, and agencies to conserve Montana’s natural resources. As legally established entities in their respective counties, they are ideally suited to develop partnerships with the many stakeholders dedicated to conservation of the river. The Council receives technical assistance and advice from the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, Department of Environmental Quality, Natural Resources Conservation Service, US Army Corps of Engineers, US Geological Survey, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and other agencies. The Council coordinates closely with the Upper Yellowstone River Task Force.
The Council’s purpose is to provide local leadership, assistance, and guidance for the wise use and conservation of the Yellowstone River’s natural resources. This purpose is founded on three fundamental precepts:
The Council is currently focusing on four areas in which conservation districts traditionally work:
The Council’s goal is to encourage communication and cooperation among all stakeholders on the Yellowstone River. Toward this end, the Council developed a shared vision and set of common goals with the Yellowstone River Conservation Forum, which represents environmental interests on the river. The Council and the Forum believe the conservation of the river and the sustainability of its various uses can best be accomplished by grassroots collaboration, education, incentives and voluntary action. This list of "Common Goals" is not an exclusive list and specifically recognizes that other goals may be forthcoming from other stakeholders on the river.
Vision: A healthy river and riparian system capable of sustaining the needs of Montana citizens and communities.
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