By Kristin Gardner

We need your help to protect the treasured rivers and streams in the Big Sky community. Participation from every single one of you will be critical for success from resort areas, developers, small businesses, homeowners, landowners, renters, and visitors.

Everything we do depends on the rivers and affects the rivers. The snow we ski becomes the whitewater we float, the riffles we fish, and the water we drink. All of us who have chosen to work, play, and live a portion of our lives in Big Sky have a responsibility to steward these wonderful resources.

Now we have a blueprint to do just that. Over 2016-2017, the Gallatin River Task Force hosted a collaborative planning effort to protect our waters. The resulting plan was developed from the hard work and thoughtful discussions of a large group of smart, innovative leaders from the Big Sky community and across Montana, representing diverse interests that included local, regional, and national conservation, state and local government, small business, development, resort areas, agriculture, and recreation.

The Big Sky Watershed Stewardship plan sets the bar high for Big Sky to be a model mountain community in the way that we use and manage our water resources. Specific recommendations outlined in the plan fall under the following key concepts:

– Understand and track the ecological health of the river systems by expanding monitoring of water quality, water supply, streamflows, groundwater recharge, riparian and wetland health, and instream habitat and fisheries to assess progress and ensure negative changes are found early and addressed.

– Maximize valuable limited water supply through water conservation strategies and recycling highly treated wastewater for other uses such as landscape irrigation and snowmaking at Big Sky Resort and the Yellowstone Club.

– Slow the flow of water through the watershed by thoughtful stormwater management and targeted wetland and riparian restoration projects to enhance late-season low streamflows.

– Address existing impacts through restoration projects based on scientific data, like the those recently completed on the West Fork of the Gallatin and Moose Creek Flat Recreational area.

– Preserve and enhance existing high-quality water resources through land conservation and management and native fish conservation strategies.

Moving these recommendations forward will require strong community engagement, partnerships, and support. I invite you to learn more about the recommendations, participate in the solutions, and spread the word to your friends, neighbors, and colleagues.

This must be a full team effort—every drop counts.

Contact the Gallatin River Task Force at (406) 993-2519, gallatinrivertaskforce@gmail.com, or visit
gallatinrivertaskforce.org for more information.

Kristin Gardner is the executive director of the Gallatin River Task Force, a nonprofit organization seeking to partner with the community to inspire stewardship of the Gallatin River watershed, and ensure its health for future generations. GRTF was a key stakeholder in the Big Sky Sustainable Water Solutions Forum.