River symposium wraps up in Livingston

Liz Kearney

By Liz Kearney
Enterprise Staff Writer


Solving the problems that led to closing the Yellowstone River last summer will have to come from local landowners and organizations with “boots in the gravel,” said a speaker at a river symposium held in Livingston Thursday and Friday. 

Whitney Tilt, a longtime conservation professional, outlined his ideas for building an Upper Yellowstone River partnership, addressing about 35 attendees of the Yellowstone River Symposium during Friday morning’s concluding remarks. 

The symposium, held all day Thursday and on Friday morning, was sponsored by Montana Aquatic Resources Services and Trout Unlimited. The symposium addressed the health of the Yellowstone River, following last year’s outbreak of proliferative kidney disease, which led to the “unprecedented closure” of the river in August, a news release from MARS and TU stated last week. 

Friday’s session was geared toward creating a model for protecting and preserving the Yellowstone River. 

Tilt suggested a grassroots river partnership should:

• Protect and respect private property rights, including water rights. 

• Preserve open space.

• Ensure sufficient water flows.

• Include innovative solutions.

• Respect and value all stakeholders.

• Keep downstream users in mind all the way to the Gulf of Mexico.

Describing the Yellowstone River, he noted several points: 

• The river is loved by all.

• It’s vital to the local economy.

• There are increasing demands made of the river.

• The river is showing signs of stress and reduced resiliency.

• It lacks a “champion.”

• It’s poorly monitored.

An advocacy group should be grassroots and made up of local citizens, Tilt suggested. 

“Don’t look to Helena or D.C.,” Tilt said. 

The symposium attendees included individuals from local and regional conservations offices, state officials from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks and the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, local business owners, interested individuals and a local representative from Sen. Steve Daines’ office, who said he came to listen in order to relay everyone’s ideas back to Daines.