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!

VICTORY! Judge Says DEQ Violated the Law on Smith River Mine

You stopped the mine on our beloved Smith River. On April 11, Montana Trout Unlimited received word on our court challenge that we won both the MEPA and MMRA claims we filed against the Black Butte Mine and DEQ. Your donations, letters, phone calls, and time helped us achieve this victory. This marks a rare moment in Montana history that a mine has been stopped because it poses serious environmental risks. Thank you!  

In its ruling, the Court stated: “Plaintiffs claim that DEQ failed to ensure the safety and stability of Tintina’s tailings storage facility, failed to prevent excessive nitrogen from entering Sheep Creek and contributing to algal blooms that choke out fish and other aquatic life, and failed to consider reasonable alternatives to alleviate or avoid potential environmental harms….This Court finds that DEQ’s decision to permit the Black Butte Copper Mine was arbitrary, capricious, and unlawful.

As you know, MTU joined MEIC, EarthWorks and American Rivers to challenge, in district court, that MT Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) did not properly or sufficiently evaluate the risks this mine poses to water quality, quantity and the Smith fishery under the Montana Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) and MT Metal Mine Reclamation Act. The first and only hearing was held on July 16th, 2021, and the decision came in our favor of all of our claims about the risks the mine poses. 

If we’ve learned anything in this fight, it is that there are always more rounds, so while we are celebrating this win, we remain poised for our next action. We are also still committed to the mineral withdrawal on public lands that will provide an additional layer of protection for the Smith River. 

We could NOT have accomplished historic protection without you.

Thanks for all you do for trout in Montana and everywhere!

David Brooks

Executive Director

Montana Trout Unlimited

MTU Starts “Wrappin’ & Rappin'” Vidcast

Wrappin’ & Rappin’ is Montana TU’s new video podcast series, focusing on signature flies from some of the state’s premiere waters, as well as discussions about conservation in the places our guests know best. Each week we tie a fly and chat! In this episode, we focus on the Smith River and the Gonzo streamer, popularized by Joe Sowerby of MT Fly Fishing Connection. Our guests our MTFFC guides Will Plumhoff and Jason Brininstool. We discuss this year’s drought and how the river fared, hear some stories of the Smith’s infamous weather, and talk best boat camps, including one that may be haunted! Enjoy!

Blackfoot River Outfitters Memorial Float

On September 5, 2015 Matthew and Laura Churchman lost their newborn son William. At 32 weeks, they learned that, due to major abnormalities, his was not a life compatible outside the womb. His brief moment had a profound impact on their family and friends. Matthew manages Blackfoot River Outfitters Fly Shop in Missoula. Together with the owners, John Herzer and Terri Raugland, they reignited The Blackfoot River Outfitters Memorial Float, founded originally to honor the memory of John’s father, Moe Herzer and longtime fishing client and friend Steve Bryant.

This year funds raised will benefit Montana Trout Unlimited’s efforts to protect the Smith River from a proposed copper mine on its most vital tributary. Coincidentally it was after they had decided to raise funds to protect the Smith that Laura drew her first Smith River permit. In June with their daughter Ella, Matthew’s father Bill, and two other families, the Churchmans got to experience the treasure of the Smith River, which lies in its preservation not extraction.

The Memorial Float will take place on Saturday, October 13, 2018. Guiding services for full-day fly-fishing and scenic floats are donated so that all proceeds can benefit MTU’s efforts. Boats are filling up, so please reserve your spot soon.

Montana’s rivers are special places, giving us recreation, education, and clean drinking water, but they can also be a place of reflection, healing, and a respite for our worried minds and troubled hearts. To compromise the health of a river like the Smith, to harm it irreparably, would be a loss that we would grieve like any other.

Please join us to honor lost loved ones and to protect the life-giving waters of our rivers and streams.  There are also many ways to give, sponsor or get involved in the Memorial Float. To find out more, please visit