Gallatin River Task Force announces $1.2M campaign to secure river health, access

By Sarah Gianelli EBS Senior Editor

BIG SKY – At the Gallatin River Fly Fishing Festival’s Hooked on the Gallatin banquet June 29, the Gallatin River Task Force announced the official launch of Gallatin River Forever, a fundraising effort that in its “quiet phase” has already raised $800,000 of its $1.2 million goal. The funds will be used to monitor, repair and improve the Gallatin River and its tributaries in and around the Big Sky area.

“The Gallatin River and its watershed is the lifeblood of the Big Sky community and a critical reason so many of us live here and play here,” said Kristin Gardner, executive director of the task force, in a press release about the campaign. “Its health and well-being are our health and well-being.”

At the lively, tented banquet on the lawn behind Gallatin Riverhouse Grill, on the banks of the rushing river, attendees expressed their passion for the cause.

Early donor Tim McKenna, a Big Sky resident of 14 years, reiterated Gardiner’s sentiments.

“The Gallatin River is the heart of the whole community,” he said. “Without it, Big Sky doesn’t exist in my mind. The way the world is going we’re going to run out of water before anything else and we need to protect our water resources.”

Brian Van Eps, Big Sky Community Fellowship pastor and the banquet’s master of ceremonies, touched upon other aspects of the river’s importance, both personally and beyond. “[My family] likes to fish it and float it, but there are some folks that can’t sustain themselves without it,” he said, referencing his wife’s family, farmers near Churchill, Montana, since the early 1900s, and the many workers who earn a living in the recreation industry.

Nearly $24,000 was raised in the live auction portion of the banquet, with spirited competing bids for multi-day fishing and rafting trip packages. Up for auction was a package of five day trips with preeminent area guides; fishing excursions in Land of the Giants and Belize, donated by Gallatin River Guides; and a whitewater rafting adventure on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River with Boundary Expeditions. The Snow family auctioned off the use of their Mexican villa for two weeks.

Tickets to the benefit and silent auction bids raised additional funds for Gallatin River Task Force. The official totals were not available at EBS press time on July 1.

“You look at the scenery, the wildlife, the river … this is why we’re here,” said Jeanelle Johnson, a task force board member and volunteer. “We need to keep the river clean, cold and pristine. This is why people come to Big Sky—and we need to do whatever it takes to protect and preserve our greatest asset.”

Specific initiatives of the campaign include river access restoration projects at the Moose Creek and Deer Creek access points, increasing watershed monitoring to track the long-term health of the river, expanding outreach and education programs to inspire river stewardship from people of all ages, and expanding the organization’s resource base.

“Whether you live upstream, downstream, or right on the river, the Gallatin supports us all by providing water for cities and agriculture, habitat for fish and wildlife, and countless recreation opportunities,” said Alan Johnson, a member of the campaign committee. “We have an obligation to take care of it.”

Visit gallatinrivertaskforce.org for more information on the Gallatin River Forever capital campaign.