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Saving the Yellowstone River

Yellowstone River - Photo by Mike DahmsEighteen individual conservation groups, Montana River Action among them, came together in July 2001 to launch a plan to øSave the Yellowstone River.Ó From where the Yellowstone River flows out of Yellowstone National Park, all along its pathway to the Missouri River in North Dakota, home construction and engineering projects impact the rivers 670-mile run. Yet, this is one river in the United States that still has remnants of wildness that can be retained. The key is saving its natural values, riparian areas and floodplains. Cottonwood and willow forests, great meanders and oxbows, rapids and riffles flowing across numerous outcropping rock strata. A river that is continuously changing its channel, depositing gravel bars and sand beaches during one spring runoff and wearing them away the next.

The 19-member coalition of organizations and individuals all agree that an uncontrolled, free-flowing river will be increasingly valuable to the nation and to the communities along its banks. Allowing the river to utilize its floodplain will decrease destructive flooding and is a small concession considering the benefits we all derive from the river. No single action exists in isolation. Downstream users count on the wisdom and care of upstream neighbors.

The seven points of the coalitions plan for preserving the Yellowstones present natural characteristics are:

• Promote floodplain management that preserves dynamics and riparian habitat.

• Establish a scientific description of the rivers watershed.

• Ensure sufficient flow in the river and its tributaries.

• Control noxious weeds and reestablish native vegetation in the river corridor.

• Protect and reestablish native cottonwood forests.

• Safeguard fish populations by modifying facets of irrigation diversions.

• Revitalize and restore community fronts. ~

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