Stand up for the Clean Water Act

Many of you may remember MTU’s long history in standing up for the protections our streams have under the Clean Water Act. The EPA is proposing a new policy that would be the first step in restoring protections for small streams, headwaters, and wetlands that are critical to a healthy and functioning water system.

This “Waters of the United States” rule – better known as WOTUS- is based in sound science (and good common sense): If we pollute upstream, we put downstream waters at risk.

Millions of miles of streams and millions of acres of wetlands lost Clean Water Act protection under the previous administration. Now we have a chance to see that they’re protected going forward.

This proposal would officially roll back the previous administration’s rule and largely return to earlier guidelines. Speak up today on behalf of the rivers and streams we care so much about, and the watersheds we are working so hard to conserve.

And then stay tuned. Later this year, the EPA will release a new definition of “Waters of the United States” covered by the Clean Water Act, and MTU and TU will be working hard to ensure it provides lasting protections for small headwater streams.

Montana Angler owner and American Fisheries Society policy director stand up for clean water in Kansas City

Brian McGeehan, owner of Montana Angler, and Drue Winters, policy director for American Fisheries Society, traveled to Kansas City this week to attend the public hearing on the EPA’s proposal to narrow the definitions of waters protected under the 1972 Clean Water Act.

Brian McGeehan speaks in support for strong protections for our waters, “Our business; and many, many others, relies solely on clean rivers and streams. Without clean water I cannot support my family or the dozens of other families that rely on Montana Angler to make a living.”  Watch the full video of Brian’s statement here

Drue Winters understands how critical clean water protections are for the health of our watersheds,“The rule fails to align with the original intent of the Clean Water Act to ‘to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation’s waters.’ Further, the rule is inconsistent with more than a half century of scientific research that demonstrates that the integrity of “traditionally navigable” waters fundamentally depends on ephemeral, intermittent, and perennial headwater streams, as well as the many associated lakes, wetlands, and off-channel habitats”.  Watch the full video of Drue’s statement here.


Tell us your clean water story

On June 30 we urged folks to send us their Clean Water Stories.  Below is one of those great submissions!  We urge you to keep those stories coming in.  We’ll send you some sweet MTU gear in exchange.  Submit your stories and photos to [email protected] we’d also love to see your photos on Instagram #30daysforcleanwater.  For more information on our plea for stories read our executive director, David Brooks, post on the the importance of headwater streams.

The Pursuit of Happiness By Joshua Bergan

Headwaters are important. To me, to generations before and after me, and to the fish and wildlife that live on the vital sustenance that headwaters provide.

Recently, my wife and I have spent most of our summer free-time hiking up to and fishing Montana’s mountain lakes, many of which are the headwaters for streams that feed the large rivers. These lakes have become a part of us. I thought that once our project was complete, we’d be happy to get back to floating and fishing big rivers, but that’s not the case. We cannot wait to spend more time at these headwaters.

These pristine mountain lakes are spectacular. They often sport clear teal water that you can see 20-feet into and host native cutthroat trout and arctic grayling – the same species that Silas Goodrich caught on the Corps of Discovery, and that sustained people for hundreds of years before that. These fish have only a small fraction of their original places left, where anglers like my wife and I can find them. Clean , healthy headwaters are important to us.

Aside from the well-documented significance these sanctuaries provide for native plants and animals, they provide people like us with a refuge, a reason to get exercise and get healthy, some peace, memories, photo-ops and ultimately, the pursuit of happiness.

It’s true that there is some economic opportunity up there. We need the minerals and metals that are buried near these important waterways and we all need to make a living. We need to balance these things with peoples’ right to recreation, low-impact economic opportunity, and the plants and animals that rely on these places that have the same right to exist as humans do. It is my strongly held belief that we do not need those minerals, metals, and monies enough that it’s worth destroying these headwaters.

Headwaters are too important to us all to allow protections to lapse.

30 Days for Clean Water – We need your help!

You have 30 days to tell the EPA to protect Clean Water

The public can now comment on a decision by the Trump administration to repeal a rule that would protect 60 percent of stream miles in American.  In June, the Environmental Protection Agency announced that it would begin the process of repealing the 2015 Clean Water Rule that protects headwater streams and water sources, however, the opening of the 30-day comment period was delayed until today.  As anglers, conservationists, irrigators, recreationalists, and, well, water drinkers, we need to defend the Clean Water Rule against repeal because it:

  • Protects from pollution the cold, clean headwaters the account for roughly 50 percent of Montana’s trout streams.
  • Includes exemptions to ensure that farmers and ranchers are not penalized for the water use that keeps them in business.
  • Safeguards the drinking water sources of one in three Americans.
  • Underpins the $7.1 billion outdoor recreation economy in Montana that generates 71,000 jobs and $286 million in state and local taxes.  Ten million people visit Montana every year, in large degree, because of the state’s unparalleled natural amenities, especially cold, clean trout streams. 

Without the Clean Water Rule everyone who cares and consumes clean water loses, except the industries that its repeal will allow to pollute our headwaters without regulation or penalty.  We’ve had enough of that in Montana!

Act now by providing a written, online comment to the EPA before August 28th. Submit comments to  

Or for more information, check out the EPA’s page on this issue,

Please consider copying the comments you send to the EPA to all of your Congressional delegates.  Let them know that you expect them to defend clean water rule-making in Congress.

Senator Steve Daines: (202) 224-2651 (Washington, DC office); or email

Senator Jon Tester: (202) 224-2644 (Washington, DC office); or email

Representative Greg Gianforte: (202) 225-3211 (Washington, DC office); or email

Clean Water Rule rollback – Your Story is Needed

Montana Trout Unlimited has an assignment for you. Go spend time on your nearest or dearest headwater stream in Montana. Take photographs (selfies are OK). Reflect on why that place is important to you, your family, and your friends, including those with fins, fur, or wings. Maybe you have clamored along Hidden Gem Creek to where it bubbles up through alluvium and begins flowing under deep shade and over moss-draped stones every year on your birthday just to be sure it, and you, are still fully alive. Maybe you’ve taken up the Tenkara rod and savor angling by stealth and simplicity.   We need your photos and stories to help save the headwaters you value.

Whatever your story, wherever your special small water, we want to hear about it. Feel free to let your secret spots remain so by giving them nicknames. But know that disguising their names makes them no less vulnerable to Trump administration rollbacks in regulations that protect clean water and healthy habitat.

In his first 100 days POTUS Donald Trump signed an Executive Order asking the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers to consider revoking the Clean Water Rule (CWR). The rule is meant to extend Clean Water Act protection to “ephemeral” or “intermittent” streams and many wetlands, which, in ontological terms, are the birthplaces and infants of our coldwater trout waters in Montana and, truthfully, all fisheries. Statistically speaking, the rule, when implemented, will apply to 60 percent of the stream mileage in the U.S. and roughly 20 million acres of wetlands. After years of Congressional and court haggling over whether or not to protect the precious beginnings of America’s water resources from pollution and dismemberment by granting them the same clean water standards set for larger, navigable waters, the Clean Water Rule was finalized in 2015. Eighty-seven percent of the one million public comments on the rule supported it and 83% of hunters and anglers strongly favor its application to small streams and wetlands.

Passage of CWR is a vital safeguard for all water users. By protecting the source from poisoning and physical destruction, it helps ensure clean drinking, irrigation, stock, and trout waters. While doing so, the rule also includes exceptions so that private landowners can continue to operate ditches, canals, ponds, irrigation systems, and the like for personal or commercial benefit as they have historically, without new water quality regulations. Nonetheless, the Trump administration is pushing to abort the rule and unshackle industry from having to help keep our water clean. Since we care about the health of the water that flows from our taps, grows our crops, slakes our livestock, and is home to our state and national fisheries, we cannot let this happen.

Montana can provide more gorgeous backdrops, and trout-filled snapshots than in any other state. Our personal stories of real places can illustrate that the threat is not abstract, but is real to people, places, professions and wildlife we love. Last week, I toured a $40 million mine restoration site on the headwaters of Montana’s famed Blackfoot River. A decades-long, state-led project to clean up and restore Mike Horse and Bear Trap Creeks has been a key reason that the Blackfoot has bounced back from a century of industrial logging and mining. Today anglers travel from around the globe for a chance at catching native and wild trout on the Blackfoot. Yet, small-scale silver mining continues on “intermittent” stretches of tributaries above the current Mike Horse cleanup site. If the Clean Water Rule disappears, those mine operators will no longer be obligated to care about sending new waves of heavy metals downstream through the meandering creeks that $40 million has brought back to life.

We will use our portfolio of your stories and photos to inspire other states to document their headwaters and to illustrate for the public and politicians what is at stake. If you need another push to get out the door, check out TU President Chris Wood’s tale of raising his kids on the Little Cacapon River in West Virginia, an intermittent stream covered by the CWR. ( So get out there! Please send your stories and photos to [email protected]. We look forward to hearing from you.

-from Montana Trout Unlimited’s Spring 2017 Trout Line by David Brooks, executive director