Rapp grant goes to Bitterroot River Health Check

Bitterroot River Health Check receives 2017 Community Focus Grant

The Bitterroot River Health Check, a community based water quality monitoring program, was chosen to be the recipient of the Rapp Family Foundation’s 2017 Community Focus grant. The Rapp Family Foundation’s grant of $15,260 will go toward the purchase of the equipment necessary to establish a permanent headquarters/laboratory for the Bitterroot River Health Check at the Bitterroot College UM in Hamilton.

The Rapp Family Foundation was formed to support non-profit organizations in Ravalli County and has been gifting to individual organizations since 1991.  In an effort to encourage non-profits to work together the Foundation decided in 2016 to take applications that demonstrate an effort by multiple organizations to contribute their personnel, efforts and funds to create something that enhances the community and that would benefit a wide segment of the population.

“The Rapp Family Foundation has helped an incredible number of non-profit organizations in the Bitterroot valley for well over a dozen years now. We are really honored to have become a part of that legacy,” said Bitterroot River Health Check program director Michael Howell.

The Bitterroot River Health Check is a community based and locally supported volunteer water quality monitoring program that was initiated as a cooperative effort between the Bitterroot River Protection Association, Bitterroot Trout Unlimited and Bitterrooters for Planning. It quickly gained community support from individuals and businesses. Try Big Creek Coffee Roaster’s “Aqua Pura” blend. For every bag sold a $1 goes to the river health check program.

This summer the Bitterroot River Health Check volunteers worked as “citizen scientists” for the Department of Environmental Quality collecting samples at four sites from Darby to Florence as part of the state’s long term water quality monitoring project in the Clark Fork Basin. This sampling project alone is currently funded for five years but is meant to run indefinitely.

But the Bitterroot River Health Check’s goals extend beyond the mainstem of the river and into the entire watershed. In order to accomplish those goals the program needed a centrally located headquarters with a refrigerator, freezer and ice chests, as well as the instruments needed to sample the various parameters and a safe storage place for records.

The Bitterroot College University Montana is an ideal location. It is not only centrally located in the valley, geographically, but it is also centrally located in the community. It was at the second annual Bitterroot College sponsored Water Forum, that the Bitterroot River Protection Association had the opportunity to present its plans for a modest but significant sampling project on the Bitterroot River to the community.

“The response was so immediate, genuine and so supportive from university professors, from other organizations, and from members of the general public, that a vision sprouted of something way beyond any particular water quality monitoring project,” said BRPA director Michael Howell.  “It was the vision of an institution. A locally formed, locally driven, and locally funded institution that would ensure that water quality monitoring became a tradition in the Bitterroot that would continue in perpetuity. It was something only a community can really do.”

“We want to express our gratitude to the college for the way in which it has from its inception worked to integrate itself into the full community and involve itself in community affairs. Facilitating the kinds of interactions that spawn new, innovative and creative ways of addressing issues from water quality to homelessness,” said Howell. “And once again, express our gratitude or the Rapp Family Foundation’s support of such community based projects.”

Bitterroot College UM professor George Furniss said, “One of our greatest economic drivers in Ravalli County are the dollars spent and earned and the happiness enjoyed by fishing, recreation, and irrigation, all provided by clean water flowing in the Bitterroot River. Bitterroot College wants to support community engagement involved in protecting the value of the Bitterroot River.”

For more information contact Bitterroot River Health Check, program director Michael Howell at (406) 239-4838 or email bitterrootriverprotection@gmail.com and/or Bitterroot College UM Professor George Furniss at comogeo@gmail.com.

Support the Bitterroot River Protection Association

20×30 canvas print of the Bitterroot River is available for sale at the Bitterroot Star in Stevensville, Montana for $265. 10 percent of the sale price is donated to the Bitterroot River Protection Association.

Bitterroot River - photo by Merle Ann Loman, A Montana View Photography

Bitterroot River – photo by Merle Ann Loman, A Montana View Photography


See more photos at www.amontanaview.com.
Bitterroot Star, Newspaper Publisher
Address: 215 Main St, Stevensville, MT 59870
Phone: (406) 777-3928

Welcome to the Bitterroot River’s web site

MONTANA- Where the Rivers are Not for Sale…..yet!

 

There is no question about it. There is a new breed of “rancher” moving into Montana. More likely than not, he only spends a few weeks out of the year in our state, is extremely wealthy, and probably made that money as a highly paid CEO in some sort of financial company. Not your typical old time rancher. He comes with very deep pockets. Almost too deep to adequately express. A lot deeper than the state government of Montana, the entity we rely on to enforce our state’s constitution and our state laws.

This new breed of rancher generally arrives with good intentions. He does a lot of good. He often helps the local people by donating heavily to local community groups and schools. He also comes with a strong conservation ethic. He wants to help the land “recover” from old style grazing practices. He wants to “restore” environmentally degraded streams. He wants to “enhance” the fisheries habitat in our streams and rivers, and the riparian habitat along the banks to benefit our wildlife. He often places a conservation easement on the land to help ease the cost of making such improvements by taking advantage of some tax credits. It’s a strong ethic that accomplishes a lot of good.

But this is not the whole picture. The new ethics, being imported to our state by the super-rich, has some other very important characteristics. It is an aristocratic ethics, at heart. It actually promotes private ownership of our public resources as the best form of “resource management”. The government, after all, is slow and cumbersome in its actions, and continually hamstrung by lack of funds. Not so, this new breed of rancher.

This new conservation ethic also holds the general public in low esteem and considers exclusion of the public a vital part of its efforts at protecting the resource from abuse. They view the public generally as bunch of litterers who will trash the resource if given unfettered access to it. This new breed of rancher places his trust, like the kings and barons of old, in the circle of paid experts, consultants, and advisers that he has gathered round himself to help in his resource management plans. He does not like consulting the public about his actions or meeting any public requirements. And, like the kings and barons of old, he plans to help us with our resources by helping himself to them.

It is this part of the new conservation ethic, the part that wants to own the resources in order to better manage them for us, that is clashing with the very strong Montana ethic of public ownership of our resources, such as our water, fish and wildlife, and public access to them. In Montana, the streams and rivers, the fish and the wildlife belong to the public, not to any particular individual. Our Constitution guarantees it. And a well tested (all the way to the Supreme Court of the U.S.) law, the Montana Stream Access Law, guarantees public access to these resources.

The new breed of rancher would like to change that.

What we’ve got here in Montana is priceless. We are not going to let go of it. We are not ready for the kind of Sherwood Forest style conservation ethic that this new breed of rancher is trying to import.

We would send the same message to this new breed of rancher that Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer, did in an interview for the New York Times, “If you want to buy a big ranch and you want to have a river and you want privacy, don’t buy in Montana. The rivers belong to the people of Montana.”