Thanks to the generosity of the Michael J. Connell Family Foundation, Montana Trout Unlimited was able grant to $26,000 of funding during its Spring Chapter Mini-Grant cycle.

The Bitterroot Chapter (Hamilton) applied for funds to help support the installation of a self-cleaning, passive fish screen and diversion upgrade to eliminate native trout entrainment in a ditch that diverts water from some of the highest quality bull trout and westslope cutthroat trout habitat in the Bitterroot watershed.  It will also reconnect 39 miles of bull trout and westslope trout stream within the watershed.  The chapter will match the mini-grant contribution with $5,000 of chapter funding.  Christine Brissette of Trout Unlimited will manage the project.

The Flathead Valley Chapter (Kalispell) applied for a grant to contribute to a conservation easement purchase of 155 acres of critical land along the Flathead River southeast of Kalispell.  The conservation easement is being purchased by Flathead Land Trust.  It is part of a 12,000 acre conservation network that protects key bull trout and westslope cutthroat trout habitat.  The project will add to a 12,000-acre conservation network which safeguards 30% of the river bank, 50% of the high quality riparian areas, 53% of the wetlands, 42% of the 100-year floodplain, and 45% of the lands overlying shallow groundwater.  Lots of other partners, including $1,000 chapter contribution, will help leverage over $635,000.

The Joe Brooks Chapter (Livingston) applied for funds to continue the Watershed Warriors program at Gardiner, Arrowhead, and Shields Valley schools.  This project is an ongoing conservation education program run by Matt Wilhelm that puts conservation educators and professionals in fifth-grade classrooms to teach a series of 34 lessons on watershed science.  Students in the program have opportunities to connect their classroom studies to local watershed issues and fly fishing.  Instructors use fly tying, casting, and fishing as means to introduce aquatic entomology, reading water, invasive and native species, cold water restoration, riparian ecology etc.  MTU mini-grants have contributed to this program the past two years.

Missouri River Fly Fishers (Great Falls) applied for money to provide matching funds for a larger grant being pursued by the Sun River Watershed Group.  The larger grant will allow SRWG to hire environmental engineers to design three possible solutions to permanently keep the Sun River connected to an important trout spawning tributary in its lower reach near Fort Shaw. It will also address long-term water quality/sediment issues in this stretch of river that have hindered trout spawning, rearing and survival.  Habitat and water quality are recognized as limiting factors to the Sun River trout fishery.

The Pat Barnes Chapter (Helena) applied for funds to help transport Trout in the Classroom (TIC) students to Spring Meadow State Park to release their trout and test water quality to ensure the lake provides healthy trout habitat.  This effort instills in students the importance of caring for natural habitat for a healthy fish population.  The $1,000 would fully cover this element of the chapter TIC program for the year.  The chapter provides the rest of the annual funding for the program.

The WestSlope Chapter (Missoula)applied for funds to help install a telemetered stream gauge on Rock Creek tributary of the Clark Fork River to monitor daily stream temperatures and flow.  In spite of its renowned status as a native and wild trout fishery, Rock Creek has no stream gauge.  The goal of this project is to sustain the Rock Creek fishery and local agricultural economy through increased education and understanding of the water resource.  Data will be available via the WestSlope chapter website. The chapter is contributing $5,000. Tess Scanlon of Trout Unlimited will manage this project.