By Amanda Eggert EBS Contributor

BIG SKY – Local nonprofit Gallatin River Task Force received a $5,000 grant Oct. 12 from Patagonia’s World Trout Grant Council for a project slated to address erosion and river-access issues on the Upper Gallatin River.

The Moose Creek Habitat and River Access Improvement Project, as it’s known, was recognized by the World Trout Initiative for the positive impact it will have on the Gallatin’s fish population. GRTF joins 170-plus nonprofit conservation groups that have been awarded a total of more than $1 million dollars from the council in the past decade.

Kristen Gardner, executive director of GRTF, said she hopes the grant will help increase public support – and funding – for the project, which has an estimated price tag of $300,000.

“We’re … excited to have Patagonia’s support because it will really enhance our ability to fundraise, and this is a project where we’re going to have to fundraise a lot,” Gardner said.

In partnership with the Custer Gallatin National Forest, GRTF will address problems of riverbank erosion and compromised water quality at the Moose Creek River Access, a site commonly used by fishermen, rafters, kayakers, and campers. According to Gardner, fine sediment loads and stream-bank loss have negatively impacted the aquatic invertebrate population at the site.

The project is still in the planning phase, but overall goals include enhancing streamside vegetation, stabilizing the bank, creating a boat ramp, and installing fences and signs to direct users to focused access trails.

Wendi Urie, the recreation program manager for the Bozeman Ranger District, said the U.S. Forest Service will likely use a mix of volunteers, contractors, and Forest Service employees to accomplish these tasks.

Gardner estimates it will take two to three years to complete the project. Urie said a firm breaking-ground date has not been established, but she’s hoping for next fall when there’s a decrease in river flow and public use.

Financing, according to Urie, is one variable affecting the on-the-ground start date. “At the moment, we’re still working on how this would fit into our budgets and what [the Forest Service] can bring to the table in terms of funding,” she said.

The Moose Creek project will be the first collaborative river-access project between GRTF and the Custer Gallatin National Forest. Urie said the Forest Service, which has traditionally been more involved in managing trailheads and campgrounds, is looking forward to the opportunity to address river access and water quality with projects like this one.

“A partnership with a nonprofit like [GRTF] allows us to have a partner that can seek out grants and funding opportunities that wouldn’t be available otherwise,” Urie said.

Gardner said the Patagonia World Trout Grant Council was impressed by the level of collaboration that has gone into this project.

Earlier this year, GRTF mapped 111 river-access sites along the Upper Gallatin, and discussed the condition of some of those sites with stakeholders like Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, as well as Trout Unlimited, rafting company owners and recreational users.