This morning, the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks released a citizens’ committee report providing recommendations for historic investments in improving public access, conserving habitat, and supporting economic development along the Lower Yellowstone River corridor.
Compiled by a committee of local stakeholders led by Angie Grove, former chair of the Montana State Parks and Outdoor Recreation board, the report makes site-specific recommendations for a comprehensive package of investments along the corridor, including new and improved fishing access sites, state parks, camp sites, restrooms, portage trails, and habitat conservation.
Last spring, the Montana Legislature, with support from Governor Gianforte, approved an initial $4 million investment in the river corridor. Following this appropriation, FWP tasked the citizen’s committee with recommending how and where these dollars should be spent to best provide safe recreation, conserve habitat, support agriculture, protect cultural and historic sites, and support economic development for communities along the river corridor.
The report builds on work begun by the Lower Yellowstone River Coalition. In 2019, the Coalition identified four significant access gaps along the Lower Yellowstone and identified opportunities to invest in infrastructure that would make the river more accessible, improve quality of life, and strengthen Eastern Montana’s economy. The Coalition’s initial proposal identified a need for new or improved infrastructure including boat ramps, bathrooms, portage trails, potable water sources, signage, and campsites. The proposal garnered support from well over thirty state legislators, county commissions, city councils, chambers of commerce, economic development groups, and recreation and conservation organizations.
Statements of support for the Lower Yellowstone River Corridor Advisory Committee Report
“The Committee took care to provide recommendations that are achievable, practical, broadly supported, and within the budget provided by the Legislature. We’ve carefully considered each recommendation to incorporate conservation, community, agricultural and financial values, and every recommendation is supported by a consensus of all Committee members.” - Angie Grove, Lower Yellowstone River Corridor Advisory Committee Chair
“As a fisherman, this project gets me really excited. The Lower Yellowstone is an incredible and underutilized resource, and this project is all about strengthening Eastern Montana’s communities, securing access for recreation, and building on the outdoor way of life that makes Eastern Montana so special.” - Duncan Bartholomew, president of Miles City Walleyes Unlimited
“The Lower Yellowstone has meant so much to our family, and it’s provided us both recreation and a source of income. Our kids have grown up on its banks fishing, camping, and boating, and it’s been especially important to us - and many others - as a place to relax and get outside safely during the pandemic. I’m grateful for every chance I get to spend quality time with my family on the river, and I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to help everyone else have that same opportunity.” - Mandy and Justin Hoffman, Yellowstone River Adventures, Glendive
“We’re always looking for ways to improve our community, and this would be a great improvement. Better access is just going to bring more people into our community and help our local businesses. They’ll come here and they’ll say ‘What a great place to bring my family, what a great place to run or start my small business. The river can be a great resource for the community, and having people come into town to use our facilities – motels, restaurants, gas stations, those sorts of things – can be a great economic benefit.” - Dennis Kopitzke, mayor of Forsyth
The Lower Yellowstone River is the thread that ties the communities of Southeast Montana together – in multiple ways. From historical significance and modern agricultural use to recreation, this great river brings opportunity. In turn, those opportunities can diversify local economies, and by investing in the river can help enrich our lives by building on the strong foundations we already have.” - Brenda Maas, director of marketing, Visit Southeast Montana
“Investing in the Lower Yellowstone won’t just support recreation access. It will also help conserve critical riparian habitat. I’m glad that FWP will continue to explore options with willing landowners for securing properties that will provide additional habitat protection along the river corridor.” - John Moorhouse, Vice Chair, Yellowstone River Conservation District Council
“These long-overdue investments in the Lower Yellowstone will help preserve critical agricultural lands and enhance recreation infrastructure along the corridor. They’ll also help ensure the safety of river users, so that our communities can benefit both from improved access and from the economic development that visitors will bring to Eastern Montana.” - Lance Kalfell, owner of Kalfell Ranch and chairman of Prairie County Economic Development Council
“Since the beginning, the Lower Yellowstone project has been about strengthening Eastern Montana’s communities, supporting local businesses, and enhancing the outdoor way of life that makes Eastern Montana so special. This report is the next step in making this vision a reality, and I’m excited that this process has continued to be guided by the people who know, love, and depend on the Lower Yellowstone.” - Ruth Baue, Treasure County Commissioner
“Bringing more visitors to Eastern Montana to enjoy the Lower Yellowstone can uplift the whole region. When visitors come, they don’t just camp along the river or go boating for the day. They stay in hotels, they eat at restaurants, they buy fuel and supplies. In small communities like ours, local economies are strongly interconnected and interdependent, and bringing more people into these communities to spend money will have widespread positive impacts.” - Beth Epley, executive director, Eastern Plains Economic Development Corporation