Montana’s East Rosebud Creek Named New Wild and Scenic River


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Stunning scenery, great trout fishing, pulse-quickening whitewater rafting and waterside recreation like hiking and climbing make Montana’s East Rosebud Creek stand out. On August 2, 20 miles of the waterway became the nation’s newest wild and scenic riverand the first Montana river to receive the designation in 42 years.

“This is a great victory for public lands and waters in the 50th anniversary year of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act,” American Rivers President Bob Irvin said in a press release. “We applaud the local residents who have worked so hard to safeguard this special river. Protection of East Rosebud Creek enjoyed strong bipartisan support. This is a great example of how, despite political differences, rivers connect us, and how we all benefit when we protect healthy rivers.”

The legislation to protect East Rosebud Creek was brought to Congress with the bipartisan support of Senators Jon Tester, D-Mont., and Steve Daines, R-Mont., and Representative Greg Gianforte, R-Mont. The President signed the bicameral bill into law last week. 

The efforts to protect the river first began in 2009, when a Bozeman-based company sought to build a dam on public land below the outlet of East Rosebud Creek. According to American Rivers, the hydropower project would have included a 100-foot-wide diversion dam, a 2-mile-long penstock, a substation, a powerhouse and transmission lines, which could have impacted the scenery, blocked fish passage and inundated a portion of the creek. Local ranchers, businesses, homeowners, recreationists and conservationists including American Rivers successfully banded together to prevent the construction of the dam. Then they began advocating for wild and scenic river protections for East Rosebud Creek.

“In a state defined by its rivers, Montanans of all stripes stood up to fight to keep East Rosebud Creek how its always beenwild, scenic and free,” American Rivers Senior Director David Moryc said.

Photo Courtesy: Mike Fiebig

In 1968, Congress established the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act to preserve free-flowing rivers that exhibit outstanding natural, cultural and recreational values. This designation prohibits the construction of new dams or projects that impede a river’s resource values, free-flowing state or water quality. It also protects a quarter-mile buffer of land along the river and provides a management plan for the river driven by the local community. Existing uses of the river, like fishing, ranching and recreation can continue.

To mark the 50th anniversary of the act, conservation organizations and outdoor businesses are coming together to support the 5,000 Miles of Wild initiative, seeking to designate 5,000 new miles of rivers as wild and scenic by 2020 and collecting 5,000 stories about rivers this year. East Rosebud Creek is the first federal wild and scenic river protected in the 50th anniversary year.

You can help support the effort in a three ways:

  • Share your river story. Share your river story and the 5,000 Miles of Wild campaign will share these stories with legislators to help show the world how rivers run through all of our lives.
  • Sign the petition. Ask Congress to protect 5,000 miles of wild and scenic rivers and one million acres of riverside lands with one easy-to-sign petition.
  • Shop the collection. Employee-owned NRS (Northwest Rivers Supplies) is proud to support American River’s 5,000 Miles of Wild initiative with a limited-edition paddle board. REI is also supporting the 5,000 Miles of Wild Campaign: 5% of the purchase price of these products in 2018 will go toward the campaign. And with a new special-edition sandal created in collaboration with NRS, Chaco is giving back 10% of sales to support American Rivers.