Protect the Smith – Sign the Mineral Withdrawal Petition

The deadline for Smith River permit applications is approaching and we hope you have good luck this year, whether it’s your first trip or a return visit to this special place. The Smith is revered by Montanans for more reasons than just fishing: scenic views, ancient pictographs and other cultural sites, hunting, wildlife, and more abound in and above the canyon.

That’s why we’re asking the U.S. Forest Service to protect public lands in the Smith from future industrial mining. More than 700 recent claims have been filed on public lands adjacent to the Smith’s most important coldwater tributary. The Smith many values are worth protecting.

Visit our Smith Mineral Withdrawal page to learn more and SIGN THE PETITION today!

The USFS has the power to protect these lands and their many values. Let them know that the Smith’s public lands are not the place for industrial mining.

Thank you for all you do to help us conserve, protect, and restore the Smith and all of Montana’s coldwater fisheries. Good luck with the drawing and maybe we will see you in the canyon!

HB642: Bad for Trout, Bad for Irrigators

We need your help to protect Montana’s wild trout and coldwater fisheries from an egregious water bill that could dewater trout streams. Contact your state Representative and ask them to vote NO on House Bill 642 immediately! 

HB642 is an end-run around Montana water law and one of the most dangerous bill for Montana’s trout streams this session. Of the more than 2000 bills that have been floated at the Montana Legislature this session, this is the worst water related bill if you’re a trout, care about trout, or care about traditional water uses in Montana. Here are just a few of the issues with this bill:  

  • HB 642 allows developers to receive unpermitted water with no recourse for agricultural irrigators, state agencies, municipalities, and others with senior water rights, including for instream flows. HB642 permits developers or industrial water users to “stack” exempt wells (water wells that don’t require a water right) Wells could be clustered into one area, including in known stream depletion zones or areas adjacent to trout streams where the groundwater is directly connected to the stream flow. This could amount to hundreds of gallons per minute of water being sucked from groundwater tied directly to MT streams and rivers.  
  • State water managers would have no ability to deny these exempt wells, even if they know it would harm other water users and trout streams.  
  • There would be no ability for senior water users to make a call on these wells because they are exempt from our water law system. 
  • The bill would be impossible to administer and enforce by the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation. Enforcement of water law is already lacking, and this bill creates an impossible system of exemptions for the agency to keep track of across the state. 

For a deeper dive into the legal aspects of this bill, check out our FAQ sheet here.  

These are just a few of the problems with this bad bill. The bill received broad opposition in its hearing on February 22nd – from agriculture to municipalities to power companies and conservation organizations. The bottom line is HB642 is bad for wild trout and traditional existing senior water users in Montana and could result in less cold water in our streams and rivers at a time when the demand for Montana’s water resources are increasing exponentially and persistent drought is rapidly decreasing the water supply in our state.  

You can help!  

HB 642 WILL BE VOTED ON THE WEEK OF MARCH 27, 2023 IN THE HOUSE NATURAL RESOURCES COMMITTEE! If you care about Montana’s wild trout streams and want to pass them on to the next generation, let your representative know that you strongly oppose HB642 today! 

To find your Representative’s contact information, click the TAKE ACTION button or HERE. Locate and then click on your place of residence on the map by using the ‘+’ and ‘-‘ symbols to zoom. Your representative’s contact info will be displayed in a pop-up dialog box. Please call or email them as soon as possible and tell them to protect Montana stream flows and wild trout. For sample language for your comment see below:  


Dear Representative,

As one of your constituents, I respectfully ask you to vote NO on HB642. This bill will have profoundly negative impacts for trout streams, instream flows, and water rights holders. It expands permit exemptions at a time when water is more precious than ever before. We need to safeguard our water for wildlife, agriculture, and recreation. Please vote no on this bill and help preserve our Montana heritage. 

Thank you,


arctic grayling

Help Save Red Rock Lake Arctic Grayling

Arctic grayling are one of Montana’s most iconic and imperiled native fish and they might soon be gone from one of their last refuges. The Upper Red Rock Lake (URRL) population of grayling have declined to the point that without direct intervention, they may soon disappear entirely. We need your help and support to solve this problem and protect URRL native grayling for future generations.

The problem for grayling in URRL is a lack of oxygen during the winter. Oxygen levels below the ice of the lake fall into the lethal range for grayling. More than a decade of research by USFWS, FWP and many partners leads to the clear conclusion that these fish will vanish unless we find a way to increase oxygen-rich water under the snow and ice cover of Upper Red Rock Lake.

The US Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS), Fish Wildlife & Parks (FWP), and many partners evaluated dozens of project alternatives, leading to a draft Environmental Assessment (EA) outlining six viable options for saving these grayling. This draft EA is now out for public comment. The USFWS and Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge decision-makers need to hear from you in support of project alternatives aimed at long-lasting grayling conservation.

Tell USFWS today that ‘No Action’ is not a viable alternative. MTU encourages the agencies to pick a solution providing the most sustainable overwinter habitat for grayling while having the lease and shortest-term impacts to the Refuge and Wilderness.

Given the urgency for grayling, we believe that the underwater diffusers and/or the Shambow pipeline are the bests options for immediate implementation. We believe one, or both of these projects, concurrently or in sequence are needed. Failing to implement a project risks the survival of these grayling, as well as a failure to uphold the values and goals of the Refuge and Wilderness.

View the draft EA HERE. To send your comment via email, click here. For help, check out our sample comment below. You can also mail a letter to:

Elizabeth Tsang U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, NWRS Planning Division PO Box 25486 DFC Denver, CO 80225

Comments are due by March 28, 2023. As always, if you have any questions about our work, please reach out to us directly at [email protected].


Dear Ms. Tsang,

I believe immediate action should be taken by the USFWS to protect Upper Red Rock Lake grayling. The ‘No Action’ alternative will result in the extirpation of this population. I encourage you to select an alternative to increase overwinter habitat that will have minimal impacts to the Refuge and Wilderness.

Specifically, I believe that underwater diffusers and the Shambow pipeline to be the best options to save these special fish and one or both in succession should be implemented. Thank you for your time and consideration.

[Your Name Here]

Comments Needed on FWP Fish Creek Recreation Plan

Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks is currently gathering public comment regarding recreational use in the Fish Creek drainage, an essential native and wild trout spawning tributary of the lower Clark Fork River. A dependable source of cold water throughout the season, Fish Creek also provides thermal refuge to Clark Fork native fish when summer water temperatures soar on the main river. Recreational use has increased substantially in the watershed over the past 10 years. Montana TU believes it’s essential that this area is managed to preserve it’s excellent habitat values and resiliance to climate change for native species.

Two issues included in FWP’s survey are particularly important to us and we ask MTU members to comment in support of lessening the impacts to this sensitive area.

  1. Floating Closure – We support a floating closure on Fish Creek. Large woody debris is common in this watershed and essential to native trout populations. We are concerned angler use during a relatively short floating season will result in the removal of logs to maintain navigability, thus harming the fishery. Please support wade-only fishing access on the Creek.
  2. Developed Camp Sites Only – Dispersed camping already occurs on Fish Creek and increasing it will only have negative effects on future water quality. We believe camping in the drainage should be confined to developed camping areas with proper vault toilet facilities, to lessen impacts throughout the drainage to maintain clean, cold, complex, and connected water and habitat for both fish and wildlife.

To complete the survey, visit FWP’s Fish Creek Watershed Recreation Planning page for more information or use a direct link to the survey HERE. Please personalize your answers with the comment boxes provided to ensure your comments carry the most weight. The comment period closes December 20, 2022. When answering the questions, we ask that you strongly consider the values we hold dear: conserving, protecting, and restoring Montana’s wild and native trout. Thank you for your attention to this important issue.